Goodbye to Obamacare

ObamacareAs the Trump administration continues to hurtle forward towards a replacement for Obamacare, I have been reflecting on what the policy has practically meant for me. I am by no means a healthcare expert, nor do I pretend to have the perfect solution for a very difficult problem; I can only consider the issue from my admittedly narrow perspective. But looking back on it, I’ve come to a rather surprising conclusion, namely: I actually kind of like Obamacare.

My premiums have skyrocketed in the past couple of years, and I am currently paying hundreds of dollars a month for effectively nothing, as a result of a deductible that seems almost as long as my phone number. (Yes, I know, if something catastrophic happens I’ll be glad I at least have insurance.)  I hate the feeling of wondering whether a certain medical exam or procedure is worth the money, a question that never occurred to me as a kid (thanks Mom and Dad!).  But with a little deeper consideration, I manage not to get all bent out of shape about it.

Any healthcare system, whether private or socialized or anything in between, is really an attempt to balance the natural inequality of society between the rich and the poor.  Without any healthcare system, the rich get healthcare and the poor, not so much.  Enter the government in some fashion or another to try to give the poor a leg up.  It’s a nice idea, but at the end of the day it’s a fight against gravity. As they say in French, “life’s not fair.” There really is no decisive way to make the playing field 100% level (communist manifestos notwithstanding).

When it comes to healthcare, until Obamacare there was another group of underprivileged folks out there: the “pre-existing condition” bloc.  Folks with serious but longstanding or congenital conditions simply couldn’t get insurance coverage and had to somehow pay for their conditions out of pocket.  The old and the sick of our society were being left behind in the dust (unless they were rich, of course). Obama didn’t like that.  And – although perhaps we didn’t think about it very much – probably you and I don’t much like that that was happening to them either.

Many critics of Obamacare complain about how the young and healthy end up carrying the burden of the sick, the disabled, the elderly.  I have a secret: that’s the part I like.  Well, I don’t really like spending lots of money.  And I also don’t like that there are certainly people who take advantage of the system other’s people’s money (but that’s true of any system).  But I do like helping people.  Heck, so do you, right?  We’re kind people. We like to give charity when possible.  We like social justice.  If I had more money available, I would love to give it away to all kinds of worthy causes.  So here are some disadvantaged folks who need help to take care of their health.  I can help them just by paying my premiums.  Isn’t that great?!

Yes, we are carrying the burden for others. That’s what it means to be a community.  The strong and healthy help the weak and needy.  America has drifted to the distant end of the spectrum in its individualistic philosophy, far from the more collectivist attitudes of yore and of yonder where family and community needs often trump individual needs (no pun intended) (really).

The brotherhood of man starts with you and with me. If you need help, I hope I can be there to help you.  Right now there’s a stranger on the other side of my state who needs ongoing care for some affliction or other.  It costs me to subsidize that help. It’s a cost I am proud to bear.

I don’t know what is coming down the pipeline for healthcare in this country. Maybe it will be better, and maybe it will be worse. I do hope that whatever it will be, it will be for everyone.

About the Author
Rabbi Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, was born in Montreal and currently resides in Baltimore, MD. He is the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, director of the Montgomery County Abuser Intervention Program, and director of K'nafayim, a nonprofit dedicated to providing family services for the Jewish community of Baltimore and beyond.
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