Russell McKeec/o Russell McKee
By Russell McKee, an independent voter and a CPA living in Mobile
I'm your neighbor. I sit behind you at church and next to you at Little League baseball games. I joined you when we all screamed "Obamacare is bad." Then my employer merged with another company and they didn't need me anymore.
I reassured Mrs. Bubba that all would be well.
Although outrageously expensive, my family and I used the COBRA health benefits from my former employer until they ran out. Mrs. Bubba needed more assurance because she was not a big fan of going without health insurance.
I went to Blue Cross and they were happy to charge us $1,477 per month for insurance; but they said my blood sugar was too high, little Bubba had too many ear infections and Mrs. Bubba has that lower back pain so you have to pay for all that yourself - preexisting conditions.
Mrs. Bubba ended up on her knees every night praying for our family's continued health. In 2013, Mrs. Bubba said we should check on Obamacare. "But Obamacare is bad," I told her. She asked why. I couldn't answer. I thought I'd better find out for myself before Mrs. Bubba asked again.
I was shocked at what I found: Today, there are over 2.5 million people in Alabama that have health coverage through their employer. I was one of them back in the day. There are almost 1 million people covered by Medicaid or a Children's Health plan. There are almost 1 million people covered by Medicare. There are about 165,000 Alabamians covered by Obamacare.
95 percent of my very vocal fellow citizens don't even have a dog in the fight? My friends told me it was wrong for the government to make anyone buy health insurance. Friends, I'm part of the five percent that wants to buy health insurance because most of us have a Mrs. Bubba.
Preexisting conditions - covered. Lifetime limits on coverage - gone. Little Bubba gets a "free" ride on my coverage until he turns 26 - yep (per Mrs. Bubba). Flu shots, cancer screenings, mammograms and other preventative care with no out of pocket cost - check.
There was even some good news for my parents because Obamacare tweaked Medicare to cover some preventative care and began to reduce the outrageous prescription drug cost they paid while in the Medicare donut hole.
Best of all, about 85 percent of Obamacare enrollees qualify for help in paying the premium but it turns out you have to be living pretty close to the poverty level to see any significant help. Or you can be a US Congressperson that makes $174,000 per year and gets a subsidy of 75 percent toward health insurance cost. I don't make anywhere near $174,000 but my family didn't qualify for a subsidy. It did not change our decision to buy Obamacare insurance.
Being a taxpaying, fiscally responsible citizen of Alabama, the final hurdle to cover in my support of Obamacare was where the Obamacare money came from. Clearly, my premium and the new 25 percent premium increase goes into the bucket along with everyone else who is covered by Obamacare.
It turns out that if you have taxable income over $250,000, congratulations! You are in the top five percent of earners in the US - you kick in a little if you have a lot of investment earnings. However, the average Alabama family earns around $43k.
The $1 trillion health insurance industry puts money in the bucket, the $1.1 trillion pharmaceutical industry puts money in the bucket and the $400 billion medical device industry kicks in some money.
I'm OK with those groups putting in a few dollars since, in my view, they can afford to support those that turn around and fork out princely sums for their services. In fact, so much money rolls through BC/BS of Alabama they had to have the Alabama legislature pass a law in 2015 to hide executive pay from the public. Nunya...
I want to keep Obamacare. I was ignorant and just parroted the mantra that "Obamacare is bad." Now I know better. Can it be improved? Sure.
First, call it anything other than Obamacare. That would help bigly.
Then get off your high horse and help regular people. Bradley Byrne and our Senators want to repeal and replace Obamacare. They convinced a large number of folks with little or no skin in the game based on nothing more than slogans. Just because you say it doesn't make it so.
But, Rep. Byrne, before you throw 165,000 of your neighbors in the ditch, I want to know more about the replacement you tout at every opportunity. I know what's best for my family, not the 95 percent with health coverage.
Tell me what you plan to do so I don't have to answer to Mrs. Bubba. She can read it and decide for herself.