It happened again this week. A couple came in to ask an important question. “Is it safe for us to retire?” My answer, as always, was a resounding “Maybe”. This shouldn’t be so difficult. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was supposed to put that issue to rest.
John and Mary (names changed) would like to retire and travel. They had worked hard throughout their adult lives, saved responsibly, and prepared for their retirement. John, 67, is employed by a major local company. Mary, 58, is a self-employed consultant. They are financially prepared for retirement. The issue is health insurance. Mary isn’t in perfect health and it is a long way to age 65 and Medicare. These are professionals. They read the papers. They watch the news. They want to know what is going to happen with the Texas lawsuit and whether or not Mary is going to be able to secure coverage.
These are reasonable concerns.
Health insurance is the way most Americans access and pay for health care. Obamacare is the law of the land and is interwoven into our entire system. And our health care system, medical industry, is approximately 20% of our economy. Eliminating Obamacare, by Congressional action or by having the Supreme Court declaring the law unconstitutional, without a viable alternative could be devastating.
What is at stake? What are some of the key consumer elements of Obamacare?
§ Guaranteed Issue
§ Preexisting Conditions are covered
§ No Health Screening – no penalty for previous illnesses or injuries
§ MEDICAID EXPANSION – coverage extended to the working poor
§ Tax Credit Subsidies – ongoing premium assistance that facilitates the purchase of coverage
§ No Maximum Benefit – elimination of the annual and lifetime limits
AND, the underlying guarantee that doctors, hospitals, laboratories, and drug stores will be paid for their goods and services.
If you eliminate Obamacare without an immediate alternative, you put most Americans and our entire system at risk.
Is that too hyperbolic for your taste? Ok. Let’s keep this simple. An emergency appendectomy with a week in the hospital could be between $50,000 and $100,000. If you’ve got an extra $50K, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The rest of us are concerned.
We have been here before. The Supreme Court rendered a judgement on King vs. Burwell in June 2015. There was real fear that with the help of the Supreme Court the coyote would finally catch the roadrunner and the Obamacare would be ruled unconstitutional. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), now retired, drafted an alternative plan. Much of it was, by necessity, rebranded Obamacare. The key was that Hatch’s plan would have passed and could have been implemented, if the Supreme Court decision forced the Republicans’ hands. The decision was 6-3 in favor of retaining the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The hastily created Republican plans from Hatch and others were quickly discarded.
There isn’t an Orrin Hatch in the Senate in 2019. That is a shame. With President Trump and Attorney General William Barr joining the fight on the side of eliminating coverage for preexisting conditions and guaranteed issue, we are assured that the Texas lawsuit will make it to the Supreme Court. We may even have a decision by June 2020. And yet, I have hope. There is too much at stake and when real action, not BS politics, will be needed to save the country, I think that we can count on two pairs of Senators to rise to the moment. The Chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Charles Grassley (R-IA). I can see him working with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to draft meaningful legislation. The most serious health care legislation would come from the Alexander/Murray partnership. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is the Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is the ranking member. Their legislative efforts reflect mutual respect and a desire to solve problems.
It is reasonable to believe that Congress would turn to these four Senators in the event of a national emergency. The sudden termination of our system would be such an emergency.
The question remains whether it is safe for John, or YOU, to retire if you or a loved one is under age 65 and will have a need to purchase health insurance. Gosh I hope so. Because if the answer is NO, then we are doomed as a country. We must be able to believe that our elected leaders can be trusted to push politics aside for the good of the country.
I am excited to share with you that John will retire by the end of this year.
We are in this together…
Picture – Nothin’ But Blue Skies – David L Cunix