Like many other disadvantaged Baltimoreans, I need Obamacare. But I don't want it.
I recall staying up late into the night watching C-SPAN a few years ago. I watched to see then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bang her gavel, ushering in an era of health care reform. After decades of failed attempts at reform — and at times, full-blown ignorance of the issue — the United States of America finally had a plan to cover the vast majority of its citizens with health insurance.
I was elated for that awe-inspiring accomplishment in our nation's history. I had once heard a British politician on cable news say, with a certain degree of arrogance, that health care for (almost) all in America could never work; our priorities and values simply did not allow for it. As Ms. Pelosi banged her gavel and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed, that foreign politician's hypothesis seemed to melt away.
A new day had dawned in our country. Our politicians decided that no matter your class, your job or your disability, health insurance was now your right. Although polls showed a plurality of Americans opposed the law, I figured that once they became familiar with its touted benefits, a majority would hail the ACA as a new right that no one dare strip from them. This is how Medicare, when passed in the 1960s, was first received; though criticized as costly for the nation, as the program was implemented, people changed their views markedly.
I should note that I have three federally qualified disabilities that have prevented me from independently purchasing health insurance for years. And for years, my health costs constituted roughly a third or more of my monthly budget. So, it should be no surprise to anyone that Obamacare was music to my ears.
Nowadays, the law is nothing more that a cacophony that has not helped me at all years after its passage.
At the start of 2013, I looked forwarded to a barrage of public service announcements informing citizens on need-to-know facts about the full implementation of the ACA. I anticipated a full media blitz and a 50-state campaign to break down this tremendous bill for everyone to understand and accept wholeheartedly.
Now we are two months away from full implementation, and the commercials never came. The cornerstone of President Barack Obama's first-term legacy, having survived a Supreme Court challenge, is a complete mess. The president (possibly unconstitutionally so) has decided to postpone a huge provision of the ACA that would require large employers to cover their employees with health insurance or face a penalty. Dropping such enforcement affects the ultimate cost of the ACA and affirms that the administration is truly unready for the full roll-out of the program.
Meanwhile, Republicans, who have denounced the ACA since its inception, are walking tall through the halls of Congress. And the Democrats are eating crow over their years-long claims that everything would come together neatly by October 2013.
This is a sad situation for the president; for our Democratic representatives in Congress who continually touted the ACA and tried to counter the skepticism of left-leaning independents like me; and for the poor and disabled (like many in my Southwest Baltimore neighborhood, I am both) as we wallow in confusion.
Frankly, I prefer "Medicare for all." Medicare is a highly popular program, one Americans are familiar with already. Also, with Medicare, the infrastructure is in place, so only minor tweaking to the law would be needed to cover America's uninsured.
Luckily, I was approved for Social Security Disability Insurance in recent months, so I now have Medicare membership. I am elated that I will receive Medicare and not have to navigate all the confusion regarding Obamacare. As a progressive, I hate to admit that the GOP may have been right all along about the ACA — that it is an uncertainty our country simply cannot afford.
Justin Cuffley lives in Baltimore. His email is