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SPOTLIGHT
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Taking the plunge on healthcare.gov

Published on -11/8/2013, 10:44 AM

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I did it. I braved the healthcare.gov website and filled out the application to discover what was available for me. I had put off the task last month, knowing they eventually would figure out the web nonsense and get it going. A rollout, when done well, is a thing of beauty. This wasn't that.

It strikes me that the website wasn't the real problem. It is worth paying attention any time public policy undergoes a drastic shift. We were told the Affordable Care Act would give us choices, a marketplace in which we would find a policy that fit our needs.

There is a change in the tax breaks for health insurance. Now, after a review of my information, I have been given a subsidy of my own, to apply to the insurance they're forcing me to buy. We're creating a new system too big to fail and too convoluted to succeed. My taxes are paying corporations to limit my health care.

Furthermore, the costs of health care are driven by those whose first interest is the bottom line. How's your 401K doing? Don't have one? Then you're not invested in the system and become the fodder for new economy, the guy who pays and can't use the profit system.

In the loud and vicious fights over the single-payer system, I have yet to hear this argument: My taxes applied directly to the providers of my health care pays the bills. Why encourage this monstrous middle man that exists only to rake profit from people's poor health?

The money I spend on insurance isn't paying my doctor, or a nurse, it isn't buying latex gloves or cotton swabs. It's funneling into a profit machine that makes a few people very wealthy and makes the rest of us look for a break.

The government's policies are such that insurance companies get to insinuate themselves in my health care, and for whatever reason, deny coverage, raise rates, or invent riders, all of which will change the outcome of my health care. What goes on between me and my provider is our business, no one else's, but both my doctor and I are influenced by actuary tables from a source that profits from the math.

It's been decided that mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies are everyone's right -- they are offered for free in the interest of public health. Chemotherapy? No freebies for cancer. Children needing immunizations can follow an application to get the cost reduced -- why aren't immunizations free? Now can we question priorities?

Cost controls worked for decades, until the 1970s, when Nixon opened up the health care market to free enterprise. It's taken about 40 years to create the behemoth health care system that exists to eat the public wealth, and while they sort out who gets what care, people suffer, and some die.

We will not demand more for ourselves -- we will not allow ourselves the dignity of real care -- because we've been trained that this system is the only one that works.

But it isn't.

Health cannot be quantified. It's not the same as replacing a car or putting on a roof after a storm. You might feel good today but you could be facing something very awful tomorrow. Our bodies age and we lose function in the course of nature. We're essentially saying that some classes of people don't deserve health care because they can't afford to play the game the way it's set up.

In hearings on the ACA, CEOs of insurance companies said they could not compete with the single payer option. Our collective health (or lack of same) is the real market, and any company with the paperwork can get in on the ground floor. All they need is a shared database, which they now have.

And what a gold mine. Every single person is going to be in the system. Who wouldn't try to dip into that bag of goodies? These companies get to grade the playing field, now that single payer has been taken off the table.

Single payer works when everybody pays their taxes, corporations included, no subsidies required. If corporations would pay their share we'd all have health care, and no one is denied. There's economic value in the single payer system in the jobs created by focusing on helping people.

The issues are dire in Kansas, because Sam Brownback refused the Medicaid expansion deal from the government. Mr. Brownback essentially eliminated help for the poorest Kansans, who have no recourse. The bottom drops out for 346,309 Kansans. An additional 100,000 Kansans will lose coverage and be unable to buy into the ACA. These are the working poor. Mostly, these are minimum wage workers, held to part-time status. Sam's zero tax plan doesn't allow for increased funding for Medicaid, although the party promised care for these uninsured.

For all those struggling with health care issues I submit this idea: If we could agree on this one thing we could apply the strength of our numbers to this problem, and let our elected officials know we see what's going on. We can demand our right to health care. We can refuse to prop up an inequitable system designed to institutionalize greed. I refuse to buy into a system that discards so many people as worthless.

Mary Hart-Detrixhe is a lifelong resident of the prairie and Ellis County. Her work can be found at www.janeQaverage.com.

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