The right to choose

A super-liberal friend called in distress yesterday.  Her husband abruptly left the job that has supplied her family with employer-based health insurance for years--but no problem, right?  She can just sign herself and her post-college under 26 son up for Obamacare coverage. (Yeah, I know, unconstitutional, but we'll get to that later.)  Was I aware that the sign-up procedures are arcane, the choices are expensive and substantively awful, the subsidies are illusory, the deadline is tomorrow?  Her son is in post-grad school in another state; all the options for a single plan for the two of them are limited to a single state, there are few choices left in the "market."  How can this be?

Why, yes.  You may recall my anguish of several years ago, which frankly you showed little understanding of at the time.  And if I'm not mistaken, you still support the party that brought you this policy and hundreds of others cut from the same deranged cloth.  (But . . . Trump!  Also, did you know that Republicans commit voting infractions, and indulge in gerrymandering?)

We talked for a long time about the few, bad options she had for making the most of this crisis.  I found myself continually erupting in fury over how bad the individual market had become.  Yes, I know it's bad!  What have I been telling you!  My friend had remained fundamentally unaware of it in two ways:  by ignoring my experience--who wants to talk about ugly things?--and by enjoying employer-based coverage, which was supposed to be gutted by Obamacare, but Congress made the correct political calculation that it should infinitely delay the effective date of the benign new system for employer-based insurance, which is to say most voters.  Congratulations:  you have joined the ranks of the 3-5 million Americans who are self-employed or who retired before Medicare age.  Congress didn't delay the effective date for you suckers.  You are such a small voting bloc that you don't matter, and you will find that your friends, especially the progressive ones, have no idea what's happening to you in this dilemma and care less.

There is a terrible temptation to schadenfreude, which I fight off for one minute and fall into the next.  This is a real human being I care about, and I don't want to enjoy her distress.  At the same time I am incandescently angry that she is still retreating into banalities about the need for "society" to solve its problem of "cruelty," like that terrible man who's separating babies from their mothers at the border, or people who oppose a woman's right to choose--actually arrogating to themselves the right to make moral choices for others!  And everything would be fine if we just had free health care, as the sensible humane countries do.

I'm afraid I unloaded on her.  Well, at least after all these years I found the courage to tell her I was very, very angry with her for continuing to support the social policies that ripped such a scary hole in our lives and which, as far as I'm concerned, lead inevitably to eating zoo animals in the name of compassion.  (Oh, yes, that's awful, isn't it?  If only we could solve the problems of cruelty with better education.)  At the same time, I know she supports horrible policies without malice.  She is not someone who can think through the practical impact of a government solution.  She wants one that feels compassionate, not one that demonstrably improves the evils she worries about.  She is an artist, a good one, and she simply does not approach the world that way.

I found myself telling my friend to write a check to a real human being in need, with her own money.  I'll give her credit:  she was more grieved than huffy.  She found a sudden need to get off the phone and deal with a car repairman, but I know she'll call back and try to mend fences.  At least the air of stifling unreality that had crept over our recent conversations lifted a bit.  Being angry with your oldest friend is not a good thing, but hiding it doesn't help.  It only makes your heart go dead, and makes you want to start ducking your friend's calls.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have unloaded on loved others, and understand your distress. Pray that you have words to help her come to understanding in as gentle a way as possible. This may be what is called a teachable moment.

Elise said...

Thanks for this, Tex. I could have written the same story about an old friend who, like yours, ignored the damage Obamacare did to me and my husband while she and her family were protected from the effects by employer-provided health insurance. I had convinced myself that I was over the hurt and anger but it re-awakened when another issue arose. We have not cleared the air and your last two lines sum up perfectly where we are.

I suspect that my friend is simply unable to acknowledge that a policy she supports is doing harm to people, especially people she cares about. Perhaps this is an example of the unconstrained vision of someone on the Left, an inability to admit there are trade-offs and therefore an insistence that those tradeoffs must not exist and/or a refusal to see the ones that do.

I hope you and your friend are able to mend fences. It's a funny thing about unreality and reality: reality always wins eventually.

raven said...

I believe the much bandied phrase is "cognitive dissonance", Yuri Bezmanov gave some instructive lessons on the nurturing of it.
One wonders if your friend is capable of isolating this one area and admitting Obamacare dealt a terrible blow to a lot of people. Just real acceptance that it hurt people. That one realization, if internalized, might eventually open the door to the idea there could, just maybe, be other leftist policies that did not work. I think this is the reason the left is a full meal deal, IE, they have a litany they recite, and woe to the one who dares to offer a difference of opinion in any area.Eggs are real strong till a crack appears...

Grim said...

I've had several frank and pointed discussions with a dear friend who is an Obamacare supporter, making it clear to her just how destructive this has been to me and my family. She does not care; she tells me that she has other friends who would die without it, and in her opinion, it's fine that I should suffer more that they might suffer less.

Which is big of her, I guess.

I explained that conversation to my wife, however, and her response was unprintable. Not so much 'profane' as 'I would fear to write down what she had to say.'

Aggie said...

Huh. If the employer has been providing group insurance coverage for years, then the family should be eligible for COBRA coverage, shouldn't it? That's good for 18 months, same policy coverage, but now you have to make up for the employer's contribution too. Or at least that's how it was when I made use of it.

ObamaCare has been a costly law for me, I've been covering our family's medical care insurance for the past 20 years. It's only gone up, quite dramatically after the ACA went through passage and we got to finally read it.

Most people won't bother to understand the flip side of the issues they advocate for, and I find that the liberal mindset is better equipped to dismiss this 'cognitive dissonance'. They just don't like to acknowledge an opposing view, much less evaluate it.

Hope you're able to mend fences, and that your friend is able to arrange coverage in due course (Welcome to the Resistance!). Most universities offer quite good, inexpensive coverage too, which will probably end up being the best option for her son. It was for us.

Texan99 said...

I think she's decided to cover her son through his school. She's also considering a medically underwritten plan. I guess, while I haven't been paying attention, the law actually loosened up a little and you can buy those again? Shockingly, the premiums will be a bit lower if she qualifies. It turns out that community-rating/guaranteed-issue plans are expensive, who knew? And if you're healthier than average, your premiums may be lower. That turns out to be OK if you're a leftist who wants to save some money. She literally has no idea of any kind how this contradicts the entire underpinning of the left's willingness to destroy our prior insurance in the name of social justice. She's also outraged that her modest line 37 income is too great to qualify her for subsidies. Wait, you mean she's one of the fat cats? Where's the affordable insurance she was promised? Honestly, she still blames the problem on the corrupt insurance industry. They're still hiding all the wealth that would make her life a paradise if only someone could beat it out of them like a pinata.

I'm having a somewhat similar conversation on Facebook, with my neighbors. I posted a copy of the judge's decision for people who otherwise had nothing to go on but the press's "coverage," which mostly consists of howls that some Fort Worth judge must hate people with pre-existing conditions. A handful of commenters always arrive to instruct me that the law was a good thing because people got coverage who otherwise would have died. I point out that that may be true, though I haven't met any of them, but at the same time what actually happened to us is that our coverage was destroyed and replaced with dreck. I'm in contact with a solid handful of others who shared my experience. There's no evidence that more people gained insurance than lost it. There's plenty of evidence that everyone has suffered a rise in price and degradation in quality of coverage.

But you're right: it's nearly impossible to get a fervent leftist to look honestly at trade-offs in this kind of issue. Someone told them that 20MM people lacked coverage; they don't know or care if that's true. Someone else assumed that all 20MM of those people gained coverage under the ACA; they don't know or care if that's true, but it's their story and they're sticking to it. The 3-5MM people who lost coverage? La la la, can't hear you. They probably didn't really lose it. It was probably bad coverage. The fault probably lies with an insurance carrier who (gasp) was operating on a for-profit basis and even committing the cardinal sin of remaining solvent over a period of years. We hate those people. Burn the witch.

At least a few people who read these exchanges may be led to consider the fact that I'm an egg that had to be broken to make this omelette. If they know and like me at all, that unpleasant reality may creep into their consciousness at some level. They may conclude that the trade-off is worth it; after all, I'm pretty able to protect myself. But I'd like to think that they're one inch closer to an honest evaluation of the fact that all this "elimination of cruelty" actually costs something, and that if they're not footing the bill themselves, they're shoving it onto a real person somewhere. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, they swim around in a permanent warm soup of assumption that voting for compassionate policies magically eliminates pain at no cost to anyone.

Texan99 said...

What I want to say to her, and can't until I find a more constructive way to express it, is, "The policies you're supporting are ignorant and harmful. You owe a duty to me and to your other fellow citizens to stop congratulating yourself on how loving and virtuous these positions are, open your eyes, consider their impact honestly, shoulder the burden for yourself, and add a little for someone else less fortunate. Otherwise you're nothing but a hypocritical parasite, and you've driven me into a corner where I no longer even want to help you. In fact, I want revenge. I want you to say, I'm sorry, you were right, I was wrong."

Definitely not constructive yet. But I must still be chapped that she'd call to unload this dilemma on me--help me, Obiwan Kenobi!--without even prefacing the conversation with an apology for her complete blindness to the fact that I was in the same boat years ago and she blithely ignored it. In fact, she announced sorrowfully that this was the first time she'd ever come to me without my having a solution. A solution to the idiot policies she continues to support with her vote. A solution to the idiot policies that scared us to death for years, and she didn't care. OK, it turns out I'm still absolutely furious. How can I possibly say anything but "IT SERVES YOU BLOODY RIGHT." I think I've mentioned before that forgiving those who have offended me is one of the hardest laws, one I'm worst at obeying, even wanting to obey. But even if I couldn't find it in my heart to obey for the sake of living up to what God wants for me as a soul, I have to know that life's not worth living if you're always cutting people off because you can't bring yourself to reconcile with them unless they prostrate themselves to you abjectly. Which admittedly does make it a lot easier, but I'm pretty sure it's not part of the law.

Elise said...

she tells me that she has other friends who would die without it, and in her opinion, it's fine that I should suffer more that they might suffer less.

I'd prefer that, Grim, to the not-really-honest-on-either-side situation I'm in. At least then we'd both know where we stand. I would, however, then ask my friend why she herself did not start buying health insurance in the individual market when Obamacare went into effect. If it is right that I should suffer more so others might suffer less then surely it is also right that she should suffer more that others might suffer less.

If even a fraction of the people who have/had employer-provided insurance and believed Obamacare was great had been willing to ante up for individual health insurance, the Obamacare market would have stabilized and the cost would be less. Yes, it would still be too expensive since Obamacare requires the insurance companies to provide stuff "for free" and to take all comers but a large infusion of healthy people would have helped a lot.

Texan99 said...

You know who else could have shown a little solidarity and stepped up to buy Obamacare policies? Congress and its staff. Instead they argued that they should be treated as a "small business," because if they had to send their staff to the exchanges, they'd never be able to hire anyone.

But I'm not bitter.

Grim said...

That's a fine argument, Elise. (Nor is Tex wrong.) It's true that it never occurred to her to forgo her employer-provided insurance and take the huge financial hit of turning to the exchanges. I'll remember that in case it comes up again.

I also prefer the honesty, although it puts me in the strange place of realizing that I need to defend myself from my friend. She clearly feels entitled to dispose of what is mine in order to pursue her own sense of what is right. How far does that go? What's the limiting principle? Is there one? Can you take all of my property to pursue your ends, provided that enough people agree with you? Can you force me to labor? What if I'm simply inconvenient to the greater good outright, and you decide -- regretfully, given our friendship -- that the world would be better off without me or my kind in it?

It's not like that's a wild conjecture. That's exactly the path we've seen socialism -> Communism -> totalitarianism take before, and more than once.

Texan99 said...

It's exactly the problem I feel I harp on daily: you sweetly compassionate and virtuous people, why don't you try solving some of the problems of needy people with your own money? You must know someone nearby who would appreciate your paying a burdensome bill for him. Few things make me angrier than someone who puffs up his own sense of generosity by grandly disposing of my time or property. The very least such a person could do is tell me to my face that he considers me unfairly rich and feels entitled to confiscate my stuff in order to make himself feel better. Instead such people bury their motives in a generalized support of soak-the-(distant anonymous)-rich policies.

That's one reason I try so hard to tell ACA supporters that their precious law confiscated my insurance coverage. I invite them to discuss honestly who's supposed to be the winner and who the loser in this game of compassionate redistribution. Quit pretending it's all about giving people free stuff, with no one having to foot the bill. And by "no one" I mean "practically anyone but myself or anyone I'll ever have to look in the eye." Maybe they really do believe it's socially just to take my stuff and give it to someone else. One can make that argument. Just make it honestly. If someone can't make it honestly, pretends not to be able to detect the cost, something is very wrong.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I admit I am suspicious hearing about friends who would die if they didn't have the ACA.

Texan99 said...

Yes, although I do have two neighbors from whom it was nip and tuck. They had some Native American coverage they could use by driving back periodically to Oklahoma, and some VA coverage. The latter has gotten better lately, since President Trump allowed vets to use non-VA services. Both having been self-employed, and despite having been extremely careful and frugal, they had lost their coverage at some time in the past, although I don't know the details. They finally made it to Medicare. I know it's very difficult sometimes. They might have been driven to use something like Obamacare if the law had been passed before they reached the age of 66.

The very scary thing about the health insurance system always has been how to ensure that you have robust, renewable coverage, I was lucky that we left our employer-based insurance when we were both young enough to qualify for replacement insurance in the individual market. I never understand how risky it was to keep relying on employer-based insurance right into middle age. But the one risk I never counted on was that Congress would blow into town and take away the individual-market insurance we managed to get into place, with guaranteed annual re-issuance. All that care, all that work, all those premiums wasted. We ended up being exposed to the danger of pre-existing conditions precisely because Congress intervened to help us, the swine.

Elise said...

the strange place of realizing that I need to defend myself from my friend. She clearly feels entitled to dispose of what is mine in order to pursue her own sense of what is right.

Yes, and I think this goes to Tex's issue of forgiveness. To forgive a stranger or even an acquaintance can simply mean to agree to forego vengeance/retribution/even enjoyment of karmic blowback. To forgive a friend is entangled with issues of trust and reciprocity. I can say I forgive my friend for being uncaring about what Obamacare has cost me and (usually) I can mean it in the sense that I don't want her and her family to, say, lose their health care coverage and die in the gutter - or even have to pay the $1250 a month I do for coverage. But it's hard to mean it in the sense that I trust her to be invested in my welfare and hard to mean it in the sense that I care when government policies cost her. Without that trust and reciprocity, I'm not sure what it means to be friends.

E Hines said...

To entangled with issues of trust and reciprocity.

My elision is because I think forgiving and forgetting are too often assumed necessarily tied together. They are not; they are separate things. Forgiving is a hard thing to do; T99 is entirely correct on that. But it's also necessary to remember the transgression lest the one wronged (and so obligated in some way ultimately to forgive) be wronged a second time when the first wrong-doing should have elevated awareness.

Forgive a friend, or a stranger, who has done a terrible wrong? Sure, hard as that very often will be. But that carries no obligation to trust after the wrong. Trust always and everywhere must be earned. Even on first encounter, where it's appropriate to be spring-loaded to trust, that trust should come only with eyes wide open.

Eric Hines

raven said...

I think some definitions of "friend" is is order.
How , exactly, does one call someone a friend who by their actions and statements show a willingness to inflict injury on one?

Texan99 said...

In an evil mood my husband has suggested that I take to assuring her that her Obamacare experience is not as bad as she imagines, that it's been designed by our betters to achieve social justice, and that it's all for the best. In an evil mood I am sorely tempted.

Honestly, my friend isn't consciously willing to inflict injury on me. She's just not very courageous about confronting unpleasantness. She'd rather think people are innocently mistaken about the impact of policies she's morally certain are likely to "reduce the cruelty in the world." A very bright and essentially kind woman, but fatally allergic to confronting anything scary like an aggressive feeling, whether in herself or in anyone close to her. She can't acknowledge her aggressions, so she rarely makes any headway in controlling them.

Meanwhile, my neighbors on Facebook continue to explain to me earnestly that the ACA delivered some unknowable number of Americans from imminent death from lack of medical care. Is the number 23 million? 11 million? They're not sure. It's like the number of communists in the State Department. My own view is that no one has any idea how many Americans wanted insurance and were prepared to pay anything for it, yet were denied coverage, and then gained coverage under the ACA. Certainly we don't know how many people in that category gained coverage under the ACA because they actually wanted it at the price and on the terms offered, as opposed to being forced to buy it on pain of tax/penalties, or being forced to buy it because their prior arrangements had been eliminated and ACA policies were now the only game in town. But we do have a fairly good number, something like 3-5 million, who had insurance and lost it because of the ACA. And I have never met or even heard of anyone who had pre-ACA insurance, lost it, and preferred the new ACA stuff.

I would like to think there were some scared people out there with pre-existing conditions who had access to health insurance for the first time because of the ACA, and could actually afford it without subsidies, or managed to qualify for the subsidies. I would also like to see people think honestly about who they were, how many there were, and what price we paid to get them covered. I often think we'd have been a lot better off simply to acknowledge that they were in a terrible jam and needed to have their neighbors pay their terrible medical bills for them.

Gringo said...

Where's the affordable insurance she was promised? Honestly, she still blames the problem on the corrupt insurance industry. They're still hiding all the wealth that would make her life a paradise if only someone could beat it out of them like a pinata.

I am reminded of this dialogue from 2016, Duh, where commenter Liza dropped in to try to find out what motivated people to vote for Trump.

Speaking of "saying and proposing some very vile things," consider the 36 Times Obama Said You Could Keep Your Health Plan. In my book, it is very vile for the POTUS to lie, and lie repeatedly, about proposed legislation.

So, I don't see it as vile behavior because I don't believe that Obama knew that private medical insurance companies would do what they have done. You could say he was naive. You could say that he didn't understand the complexities of the health system. You could say that he should have known better. Even if all those things are/were true it is not the way that you are currently portraying it.

Texan99 said...

People will go to their graves convinced that the insurance carriers simply decided overnight, unanimously, to quit selling our pre-ACA policies to us, and that there was no way President Obama could have predicted this. That the ACA specifically prohibited the carriers from continuing to offer the plans, that the HHS wrote regulations restricting the grandfathering protection so that about 3 people nationwide managed to qualify for it (I actually know one), they will not find out because they will neither look it up nor believe you when you tell them. I can't count the number of people who've tried this argument with me.

It's pretty much "If only Comrade Stalin knew."

Tom Bridgeland said...

I worked for a mid-tier insurance company during the changeover. We offered ACA-compliant plans for a few years then ended up getting out of the market entirely and telling all our clients that they had to go elsewhere. It was sad.

Your friend can easily buy short-term insurance. I believe the current limit is one year in most states (either 2 6-month plans in some states or a single one-year plan).

These plans have some strict limits, poor to non-existent pre-existing coverage, and may not be able to renew. It varies a lot by state. In some states you can renew as long as there is a short gap between policies. One day in some states, a few months in others. The deductible is usually fairly high, $2000 is typical.

Ymarsakar said...

Suffer. Humans only learn through suffering. Those lessons stick. The icing on the cake reward is what people want, but it is not necessarily what they need.

As for forgiving people... that's not even applicable. Once their actions are reported to the Divine Counsel, Divine Punishment will soon descend. I have seen it time and time again. There is no need for me to forgive as the consequences are already baked into this Matrix System. But only certain representatives and vice roys are given the keys to it.

The fate of certain humans are not so much set in stone as set in the stars. It is variable to a certain extent.

Ymarsakar said...

When people are in a cult or a religious totalitarian system, telling them that the leaders or the system is corrupt or wrong, doesn't usually work. It's like telling Catholics in 1990s that the Vatican was engaging in child trafficking and sex slave trading. Nobody wants to believe that, not even necessarily the anti Catholic bashers who have forgotten what Luther said about the Whore of Rome, the Papacy, and the anti Christ (The P of Rome).

There is a much better way to crack someone out of a cult, whether it is good or not.

Pain. Periodic, eternal, pain. The kind that doesn't go away with drugs, alcohol, or any physical panacea. Only through the trial of their faith and hammering of their core into a useful implement, are humans able to become malleable to change, changing themselves and not others. They must be hammered. They must be put on trial and judged. They must be purified by the flames of fire and pain.