I breathed an audible sigh of relief when Trumpcare self-destructed. I would be able to keep the tax credits that are helping me afford Alaska’s outrageous insurance premiums while I’m in treatment this year for breast cancer.
My Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax discount would have evaporated under the GOP plan, which reserved its tax breaks primarily for people making over $1 million a year. While I’d end up paying more taxes, the ultra-wealthy could now use their $50K in annual tax cuts to purchase additional BMWs!
Alaskans achieved something monumental. We helped stop Trumpcare by keeping a strong full court press on our leaders — the same ones who’ve been vowing to repeal Obamacare for many years.
Please don’t stop now.
We’ve got Murkowski and Young on the hook. It’s time to reel ’em in with nonstop pressure to support meaningful healthcare reform that will actually lower costs and improve coverage for Alaskans. Don’t let go of that rod Alaska, we need to land this one.
Our family crunched the numbers, because when you are self-employed and treating cancer you have to. If Trumpcare had passed, we figured that my fiancé and I — as a commercial fishing family running a small business — would pay around $20,000 in premiums annually. Add my cancer patient out-of-pocket maximums, and we’re looking at $20–30K spent every year on healthcare, rather than re-invested in our business. That’s enough cash to hire a part time employee, or purchase the equipment we need to self-process the seafood we sell.
I’m a “post partisan” voter and skeptical of corruption in both major parties. But I have to question why the GOP — the party that touts itself as pro business — was so comfortable screwing family businesses like ours in support of tax breaks for Trump’s country club set.
A near religious faith in the ACA from the Democrats, however, may blind them to the harsh reality of Obamacare for Alaskans. Alaska’s ACA marketplace is down to one “choice”: Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, whose Alaska premiums are around $900/month, or twice the national average. Premera is a licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association who paid their CEO Scott Serota $5.7 million in 2013.
Serota’s millions seem a pittance compared to the 2014 take home of UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen Helmsley at $66 million. In keeping greedy corporations at the center of our healthcare system, the Democrats have also put Wall St. before Main St. For those whose incomes are just above the cut off for tax credits under ACA, paying out of pocket to support those CEO bonuses is not only insulting, it’s often impossible.
Luckily, we don’t have to look too far for political leadership on this one. That rumpled independent — you know, the one from another rural state with a small and self-reliant population — has an idea about how to skip the hypocrisy of the major parties on healthcare. It’s called improved Medicare For All.
As a newly diagnosed cancer patient, Bernie Sanders’ relentless arm waving about healthcare caught my attention in 2016. The facts are that 60% of Americans actually want a Medicare For All or similar system, and that every other developed nation already has universal healthcare of some kind. Unbelievably, all other countries on earth pay less per capita on healthcare than us.
We can get caught up in partisan bickering, or we can push our leaders to adopt a plan that saves costs while expanding coverage. By ridding ourselves of the insurance corporations’ massive administrative overhead it has been shown by many that a Medicare For All approach can do just that. What’s more, putting everybody in a national pool ends the Alaska conundrum of high healthcare costs crippling our tiny insurance pool.
Medicare already works as a program. It’s not perfect, and good legislation should improve it while expanding it. But instead of tripping over ourselves to create a massive and complicated system with special plans and loopholes, let’s keep it simple and use a functional program we already have. Yes, we will pay a slightly higher tax rate, but as in other countries with single payer, eliminating inflated premiums will keep more money in our pockets.
Alaskans like me don’t have the luxury of letting up on the pressure for healthcare reform. If you have been calling to complain about Trumpcare, I hope you’ll keep those numbers on your speed dial, and now start asking those staffers to look into Medicare For All. The Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act, HR 676, already has 108 co-sponsors in the House. Sanders is expected to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.
Murkowski and Young have shown reason in the face of partisan pressure. We should thank them and ask them to walk their talk on lowering premiums and improving coverage by supporting improved Medicare For All. If they refuse, our unprecedented pushback on Trumpcare has shown that we have the power to replace them, and we should.