It was obvious to me growing up that there were at least two Americas: the one CNN talked about and the one I lived in. Many on the left are ecstatic these days because the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” They all feel that this was such a huge win for Obama’s administration, the Democratic Party and the American people, ultimately. Thing is, not much has changed in my neighborhood and I haven’t heard much talk about the whole matter lately, either.
The issue isn’t complicated for us. Put simply, a lot of poor and working folks from the block would simply like to live in a world in which they don’t have to avoid medical care at all costs. Growing up, that was the game: we don’t have any insurance so you’d better not get sick. The pundits are going back and forth about political posturing, scoring political points and the like. I’m not sure they understand that the world we live in is far different. The conversation about how the Court’s ruling impacts Obama politically is not one we are having. That being the case, it’s much harder for us to celebrate this victory with everyone else. We’re still walking on egg shells, praying no one has to go see a doctor.
Some would reply that Medicaid exists for those who are poor so, problem solved. The things is, there are so many who don’t meet the qualifications for Medicaid. They work and get a paycheck, thus they fall outside the range. Obamacare does expand the program to cover people up to 133% of the poverty line but the Supreme Court ruled that states can opt out of that part. So again, not much to talk about. That children can stay on their parents’ insurance longer is great. However, not many people in my neighborhood are paying for health coverage out of pocket and thus rely on their jobs for that. In 2009, only 55% of employers offered health insurance to their employees. Funny thing is, only 41% of those with mostly low-wage workers did. That disproportionately hurts working people. Obamacare will expand that but it can’t do much about outsourcing and the ever increasing use of contract workers (who require no health benefits).
We’d just like to know we can go see a doctor and not worry about it. We just want our kids to be taken care of in the event of injury. We’d just like to know we can go get things checked out here and there to avoid major issues. We’re still uncertain about those things and frankly, whatever changes are pending haven’t entered into the rotation of barbershop conversation. Life goes on, not much has changed, noticeably. Now, I’m completely open to the argument that perhaps many of us are not informed enough about the provisions within Obamacare and the like. All that may be true, yet our felt reality is unchanged. CNN is talking politics while we are talking real life outcomes and conditions. That’s their world, this is ours.