My thesis covered the health reform debate from last year, reviewing the conversational ups and downs of the then proposed legislation. While I still have only read summaries and snippets of the entire thing from sites like OpenCongress.org (awesome site to read legislation if you’re so inclined), I have a pretty good idea that no Republican except for a select few have read even summaries of it. And if they have, they focus on specific things like the individual mandate, which is what Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) did at the Summit in February 2010.
To be clear, the individual mandate means that everyone pays into the system. Everyone must be covered by some form of health insurance, be it private or public. The only way to opt out is to pay a fee. This fee was something small when the legislative package became law back in March 2010, something like $85 or $95. While this is not small for someone who’s been unemployed for several months, or someone in my situation looking for anything to just pay rent, it gets incrementally bigger until 2014, when it’s at least in the mid to upward hundreds. The idea of this is it’s enough supposedly to tell you: just get a premium. Supporting this, there are websites called exchanges now that let you shop around for the best prices for what kind of coverage you need, like you would for a particular book on Amazon. The key point of these exchanges as the President has pointed out is that it’s not just base coverage which barely does anything for you, but actually gets your medical needs met.
The reason why Republicans raise this to be controversial is not only was it a packaged legislation that is pretty large to sift through, but for the particular point of the individual mandate. They say mandatory payment into a system is unconstitutional. (Then there’s always the side dispute of, what about having car insurance?) And despite the fervor from the states’ court cases having died down about its constitutionality, the Republicans are still running presidential campaigns on repealing the package.
The reason why I even bring up the individual mandate or anything about health insurance is that because of this legislation, unemployed people over 26 do not have the privilege to not pay a fee if they are found to be without insurance. While I applaud the Democrats in Congress first and foremost as well as the President for getting this legislation passed, because it still has a lot of good things it offers (like barring health insurers ability to make you pay more or even bar coverage of people, including kids, with preexisting conditions), I cannot go along with this law. As someone out of a job, it’s still going to cost me about two weeks worth of groceries, since I am in the process of the application for food stamps, just to pay for insurance. And what about state Medicaid? The application line in Pennsylvania alone is several months long.
So what I say is that I would rather take my money and put it towards groceries. In fact, as a researcher with dietary interests during this nation’s obesity crisis, I find solace in my pescatarianism. I eat healthy and like it, despite the cost of searching out and getting fresh produce and the time it takes to prepare it. I get excited when the Vitamin Shoppe gives me half off offers on vitamins and fish oil. My diet keeps my depression and anxiety about job searching at bay, and it keeps me fueled for my walks to part-time temp work and interviews that span the entire Philadelphia area. So I am happy to have something regular in a time when everything else is out of whack.