Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson

with John Colson

It’s insuring time again, and as in the old Buck Owens song, “Crying Time,” we’re all due for a bout of tears and anguish as the Affordable Care Act (derisively named Obamacare) works its way through the labyrinthine mine fields and political haranguing from President Obama’s detractors that have hobbled the ACA from its inception.

It’s been a tough road for the ACA, which has experienced more trouble in its national roll-out than a Chihuahua trying to give birth to a puppy that is half bull-mastiff.

The ACA, one might recall, was born out of the need to get affordable, reliable and meaningful health care to some 47 million Americans who had no health insurance and who too often end up going to the emergency room for relief from everything from cold symptoms and other relatively minor complaints, to more serious and costly diseases, accidents and afflictions that we all experience regardless of whether we have health insurance.

The ACA also was pledged to deal with some of the less benign affects of having our health care system controlled by privateers, in the form of both greedy medical professionals and, guess who, the insurance industry. These include the industry’s rule that a pre-existing condition of one sort or another can be used as justification for denying someone health care coverage. That particular nasty practice is now supposed to be a thing of the past, and we can thank President Barack Obama for that.

I have to say that all the caterwauling about how difficult it is for people to navigate the new “health care marketplaces,” and how in some areas the ACA actually sets people up for higher insurance premiums than they had before, is missing the point.

Sure, people want someone to blame when things don’t work the way we were promised they would work.

But the fact of the matter is that any program intended to solve deeply rooted procedural problems, in something as inherently flawed as the U.S. health care system, is going to get off to a very bumpy start, if it gets off the ground at all.

That’s because there remain an awful lot of people in this nation, Republicans and their ilk mostly, whose main plan of action right now is to see that the ACA fails, and that they can blame Obama and the Democrats for that failure. And they don’t care how many lies they have to tell to achieve that goal.

This cause is helped, unfortunately, by this country’s basic tendency toward racism. White folk, whether middle or lower class, are easily convinced that any program aimed at helping the downtrodden can only be an effort to hand over precious money and resources to people of color, especially when the man at the helm of that program happens to be black. Republicans know that, and are using it.

Such an attitude, otherwise known as “shooting off your nose to spite your face,” is fundamentally wrong and counter to the interests of the whole country, but it persists.

I should note that I am not a big fan of the ACA, but only because it does not go far enough. It leaves us in the hands of the insurance industry and lawyers, neither of which has our health as their primary point of interest.

When Obama was first running for president in 2008, he began by trumpeting the benefits of something known as “single-payer health care,” which would have taken the health insurance industry out of the driver’s seat and, essentially, have made Medicare available to all, not just senior citizens.

It has worked in other countries around the globe, and it is the only sensible way to manage health care. Leaving it up to private industry, which is interested only in high profits, is the wrong way to go. That’s what got us into the mess we’re in.

As the Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein recently wrote, “I don’t think the private (health care) insurance industry should exist.”

But for now, it’s what we have to work with, so let’s make it work.