When I hear politicians like Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) spouting off about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be repealed I get annoyed. It’s especially frustrating when it’s coming from someone who’s been bought and paid for by large corporate interests.
Have you seen The Rainmaker? It’s a 1997 movie based on the book by John Grisham starring Matt Damon. There’s a great scene with Jon Voight where Matt Damon’s character, Rudy, asks Voight’s character, Mr. Drummond, “Do you even remember when you first sold out?” I’d like to ask Cory Gardner the same question.
The truth is the ACA has actually been pretty effective, much to the dismay of the anti-Obama crowd. Obamacare has saved the small business I run tens of thousands of dollars in insurance premiums in the past year and a half and a whole bunch of time too. But the GOP, ostensibly the party of small business, refuses to recognize this or anything else remotely positive about the ACA.
In 2013 before Obamacare went into effect the small company I run was paying about $1,200-$1,600 per month in health insurance premiums for each employee. In addition we were spending several hours each month dealing with an incompetent and unethical health insurance company. I don’t want to mention them by name but let’s say they made me feel BLUE and CROSS all the time. We would have to fax and re-fax paperwork. We would receive bills at various times of the month sometimes claiming payment was overdue even though the invoice was processed and posted after the due date. It was completely absurd.
They treated us like garbage because we’re a tiny company. Every year they would announce higher premiums combined with weaker coverage. We had no choice but to take it on the chin or require employees to contribute. There were no other alternatives that wouldn’t have left our employees in the cold without coverage, and probably without any ability to acquire new coverage on their own. We could have forced employees to shoulder part of the premium but that would have been equivalent to a pay cut so we continued to pay 100% of the monthly premiums. It seemed like the right thing to do but it was tough on the business.
The beginning of 2014, when Obamacare first went into effect, was absolute chaos. The insurance companies were using the chaos as an opportunity to cancel decent plans, hike rates and reduce coverage levels even further. Sort of like a land grab in the Wild West. In addition, the enrollment process became even more confusing and even less reliable. We had to spend hours and hours on paperwork and follow up calls to get the insurance company to provide proper coverage for all employees and their dependents. Talk about a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy. I’ll take a government agency, even a DMV, any day of the week rather than dealing with the bloodsucking health insurance vampires.
In any case, by the time May/June of 2014 rolled around it became apparent that the newly created individual health insurance markets were working. And prices were far more reasonable, less than half the amount we were paying for our company sponsored plan. So, we made a switch. We dropped the vampires and instead sent a monthly stipend to our employees to reimburse their expenses for individual/family policies. This worked well, and continues to work, for 3 key reasons.
- We are saving a ton of money. Our costs have dropped by 50%. Maybe more if you include the cost of our time.
- Our employees are able to choose coverage more closely tailored to their personal situations. Some employees have a family with kids. Other employees are older individuals with complex medical histories. The freedom to choose their own plans was helpful and seems to make them happier.
- The headache of dealing directly with insurance companies has disappeared. You might argue we simply pushed the headache onto our employees but I disagree. Employees had to be involved either way when they used their insurance but were often powerless because the insurers would tell them they had to go through their company HR department for any issues. [I love how they assume every company must be large enough to have a separate HR department.] Now employees have full control. They can even change providers if they’re unsatisfied.
So count me as one of the millions of Americans who are grateful for Obamacare. I’m grateful because previously I had no leverage to negotiate premiums or shop for new policies for my company and my employees. The health insurance market had completely broken down, providing no legitimate individual policy market and no affordable market for small businesses. I saw first hand how some people were refused coverage after a cancer diagnosis. Or forced to pay out of pocket for what was considered a pre-existing condition. I figured, if nothing else, Obamacare would fix these problems. Surprisingly, it fixed some problems for my small business as well.
I have no delusions about Obamacare being a perfect solution. The new landscape still allows the insurance vampires too much influence over medical decisions. And costs are still too high. Nothing’s perfect. But this is definitely way, way better than 2013.
Now the vampires are looking for new ways to satisfy their appetite for profit margins. So they merge with one another and work to put low cost providers out of business. In other words, there’s now a market and the big carriers are trying to tilt it in their favor. Isn’t a market approach what conservative politicians wanted?
Apparently not. Politicians like Cory Gardner and unwitting conservative propaganda machines like the Pueblo Chieftain will take any opportunity to undermine the Obama administration. American small businesses (the true job creators) be damned.
P.S. Democrats aren’t much better. Their favorite vampires are in a different corner of the financial services industry.