Commonwealth Journal


October 11, 2011

The Battle Continues

— There are a lot of people out there who shout against the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress last year. Those in opposition are fond of quoting a statistic that 83 percent of the people with insurance are satisfied with it. Many of them fear losing it but lose it they will, or at least a large number of them will.

A recent story in the Washington Post brought to light a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealing that more people are losing their insurance and that employers are shifting more of the costs to the employee along with higher deductibles. A family plan for a year now costs more than $15,000.00. How many of you can afford that? I can't.

Memories are short and even at that there are a large number of us who can't remember when there was not employer furnished health insurance. As a matter of fact, we have come to take it for granted that a job always comes with health insurance. It was not always so.

Prior to WWII it was not a common thing. During the war wages were frozen so companies could not use the lure of higher wages to attract workers. To skirt this requirement companies began offering fringe benefits that had substantial value. During the great expansion during the post war years companies were flush with capital and kept up the tradition to attract the best employees.

Well, those American corporations are not American any more even if they still have a factory or two here. They are global corporations and answer only to the bottom line and their shareholders. Where once there may have been a loyalty to the worker now there is none. As a matter of fact, a recent report tells the story of how firms used the assets in their pension funds to improve their bottom line. They would like you to believe that the high cost of labor, health care, labor unions and regulation are responsible for the pension funds going broke but the fact of the matter is that U.S. corporations are sitting on two trillion dollars in cash hoping that the next election improves their prospects.

Corporations are on the record as stating that the high cost of health insurance is responsible for their inability to provide insurance and still turn a profit. This gives the lie to that, however, they are still gung ho for dropping insurance packages for their employees. Now we see the American worker getting all irate over government retirement plans when, time was, theirs were as good as the government's. So, ask yourself what happened.

People in general are guilty of forming opinions and then tailoring facts to suit them. In a recent GOP debate the candidates we posed the question of whether or not we should deny care to a critically injured, uninsured person. The candidates were ambivalent but not the audience. People there hooted out “let them die.” To his credit Senator Paul did not say this but opined that this was where churches and charity organizations come in. Anyone with any sense knows that churches and charities are not able to add another 47 million people to their rolls as beneficiaries. As an example of how that works consider this. A local minister proposed that all of the county churches chip in to pay the cost of Pulaski County's pursuing the futile case to post the Ten Commandments down at the courthouse. He added that each Pastor should chip in $100. I thought this was not only a good idea but a proper one. The county needed about $250,000. That plea brought in $1200. Roughly 5 percent of what was needed. If that is any indication of how churches and charities take care of matters then there will be about 45 million people left out in the cold.

The Affordable Care Act was proposed originally to include a government sponsored health care plan that would operate alongside the private plans. The idea was that the competition would force prices down. Well, you would have thought someone had suggested death panels or something people cried so loudly. So, it was passed with a mandate that everyone had to become insured or face a penalty. This was done as an inducement to coerce the insurance companies to issue coverage for all groups. Again all the shouting and now we are headed for the Supreme Court to see if the federal government can force someone to buy insurance. Keep in mind that the original plan was not to have this but to have a government sponsored plan.

Governor Romney, who instituted a plan in Massachusetts on which much of the Affordable Care Act was based, has said he will offer each state a waiver to not participate. It is sad but I watched John McCain change from a reasonable man who could work across party lines to an ideologue to keep the votes on the right. Now we have Romney, who in the past has been quite reasonable, doing the same thing. It is a shame and both parties will do that but, of late, it is the GOP.

Well, time will tell whether or not we join the civilized nations of the world and offer health care to all.

My take on an issue I wish was over.


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