What is more important — having health insurance coverage or feeding, clothing and housing your family?
It’s not a rhetorical question.
While government statisticians and Affordable Healthcare Act apologists say evidence that the number of part-time jobs is increasing and full-time employment is decreasing due to Obamacare is merely antidotal, then San Joaquin County must be an aberration.
It might explain why friends who worked 40-hour weeks for a supermarket chain for 15-plus years find themselves cut back to 25 hours. It could be a reason why more and more small businesses are hiring people for less than 30 hours a week and eschewing hiring people above that threshold.
Yes, there is fear of fines and the affordable healthcare plans offered via government intervention that we are now finding out are anything but affordable.
Leave it to politicians to find a way to make life more miserable while implementing plans that are supposed to do the opposite.
Based on Census figures, some 48.6 million Americans were without insurance in 2011.
That means 274.2 million had health insurance coverage.
While the goal was admirable, the execution strategy is deplorable.
It is reflected in national job numbers. There were 195,000 new jobs created in June according to the Labor Department. But at the same time part-time jobs leaped 322,000 to 8.23 million.
Many economists credit it to the fear of Obamacare whether it is expensive coverage needed or penalties that businesses would incur.
The truth is the Affordable Healthcare Act has for all practical purposes redefined full-time employment in America as 30 hours a week and not 40.
It means many uninsured Americans working for minimum wage, which is $8 an hour in California, have found themselves taking 25 percent pay cuts to help implement Obamacare via the cutback to under 30 hours of employment.
Food costs haven’t dropped by the same margin nor has shelter and clothing. That means low-income people and others are paying the price for something they can’t afford.
There are numerous theories as to why healthcare costs have gotten so expensive. One blames effective lobbying by the American Medical Association to block the expansion of teaching medical schools that in turn effectively limits the number of new physicians. Another theory zeroes in on destructive personal habits and failing to take personal responsibility for one’s health. Then there is the high cost imposed on healthcare services from litigation and fear thereof.
Both are legitimate points.
There is a fourth culprit — the insurance-medical care complex. Did anyone notice how the stock of insurance firms and hospital corporations soared when the President signed the Affordable Healthcare Act into law? Nothing evil there although it underscored the fact hospitals would have more paying patients and insurance companies theoretically more customers paying monthly premiums.
A much better strategy would have been to address both the root causes of healthcare expenses and the needs of the 48.6 million uninsured Americans in tandem.
Such an approach may have seen the government bankrolling the education of new doctors in exchange for a two-year commitment to free clinics. As for specialists, the government may get a three-year commitment to work in regional government hospitals.
Physicians would receive a $30,000 a year tax-free salary. After their two or three years are over, they would be debt-free and able to do what they want. Pursue private practice or continue as a government doctor.
Those who go to such facilities would have to be uninsured. Yes, it may be inconvenient but it is about healthcare and coverage.
The uninsured would be subject to “ration” boards — a nicer moniker than death panels — to determine how much sense a certain procedure makes given a person’s age and other factors. Such a review is already incorporated in the Affordable Healthcare Act.
That way it would give people pause if they think about shucking healthcare coverage to take the no frills government-paid for option.
Yes, taxpayers would be on the hook but who did you think picks up the tab now when people without insurance need medical attention or surgery? Taxpayers do it directly as well as indirectly through higher healthcare costs. The expenses incurred by hospitals, doctors, and ambulance firms just aren’t absorbed into thin air. They are part of the cost of doing business.
This way, though, it would be clear what the cost is. It also would eliminate the sham that somehow people are routinely denied healthcare in this country on such a level that it is a national tragedy.
Proponents of Obamacare are right about at least one thing. The system that was in place for those who couldn’t afford insurance coverage wasn’t user friendly nor did it make sure the costs of providing services were covered.
As for those having conniption fits over Obamacare, no one really offered any other plan to address the fact healthcare costs now account for 17.1 percent of the gross national product and are paced to reach 30 percent by 2021.
Healthcare reform is needed not because of those without insurance as much as it is about the expanding costs that threaten to cripple the economy.
Obamacare isn’t likely to turn out to be the right answer but thanks to political infighting, lobbying by special interest groups and the fact we all act like we want to be able to take a magical pill to make all of our health issues disappear in an instance, it is the only answer being pursued.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.