Let’s sing the praises of Obamacare for a minute.
Get back here! I said just for a minute. OK, it’s not the tidiest law in history. You’re probably still sulking because you wanted something simple and rational, like a single-payer plan. But it’s here, and about 10 million people have health coverage who didn’t have it before.
Plus, it’s apparently working better than any of us imagined. Here is how great the Affordable Care Act is doing: The Supreme Court is about to hear a challenge to the law, filed on behalf of four Virginia plaintiffs, who claim to have suffered grievous harm by being forced to either buy health coverage or pay a penalty. Lately, reporters have been trying to track down this quartet of pain, and discovered they are:
▪ A 64-year-old limo driver who does not seem to be required to do anything under the Affordable Care Act because the cost of even a very cheap health care plan would be more than 8 percent of his income. (People who have to pay more than 8 percent are allowed to just opt out of the whole program and stay blissfully uninsured.) Also, he’s a Vietnam veteran and thus presumably eligible for free veterans health care, making the whole discussion even more irrelevant.
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▪ A 63-year-old man in Virginia Beach who would apparently have been eligible for stupendous savings on health insurance under the new law. And who is also a veteran.
▪ A woman who listed her address as a motel where she hasn’t been staying since late 2013. And wherever she is, she probably wouldn’t have any Obamacare problems because of the 8 percent rule.
▪ A 64-year-old woman who seemed to have little or no idea what the case was about. “I don’t like the idea of throwing people off their health insurance,” she told Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones.
That plaintiff, an anti-gay-rights activist, also told Mencimer that because of previous health problems, she faced insurance costs of $1,500 a month, a vastly higher premium than she’d pay under Obamacare. Also, The Wall Street Journal determined that her annual rate of pay as a substitute teacher was so low she, too, should be off the hook because of the 8 percent rule. Also, she’s about to qualify for Medicare.
Comments by some of the plaintiffs did suggest that they experienced serious pain over the fact that Barack Obama is president. “ … When he was elected, he got his Muslim people to vote for him, that’s how he won,” one told Facebook.
“These are the best they can do?” asked David Levine, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Wow. Obamacare must be the greatest law in the history of … laws.
All this may not be enough to get the case thrown out of court. But still. “It’s not hard, frankly, to find plaintiffs who want to take down the government,” said Neal Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown who formerly served as acting solicitor general. “The fact that these folks apparently couldn’t find four people who actually had a legitimate grievance is very telling.”
The case the Supreme Court is considering would be outrageous even if the plaintiffs were four disabled orphans being threatened with eviction. Linda Greenhouse had a wonderful opinion column recently in The Times explaining the whole thing, but the bottom line is that there is sloppy wording in two subclauses, although they’re easy to interpret correctly if you read the entire law. The simplest way to clear things up, of course, would be for Congress to just fix the language.
Pop Quiz: Last week the House of Representatives took up the issue of Obamacare and:
A) Voted to tweak the wording in those two subclauses.
B) Voted to repeal Obamacare for the 56th time.
C) Voted to repeal Obamacare for the 67th time.
D) Decided to let everything putter along the way it is and passed a resolution demanding that Beyoncé be given the Grammy for best album.
The answer is either B or C. Even the House seems to have lost count.
Critics said that since Republicans were offering no alternative health plan, their position was wildly irresponsible, particular to those Obamacare-covered citizens. This is totally unfair because it overlooks an important provision of the bill requiring three House committee chairs to get together and come up with what Republican leaders called a “thoughtful replacement strategy.”
We have been looking forward to that thoughtful replacement strategy since the days when everyone was excited about iPads and zombies on TV.
Really, Obamacare is terrific. You can tell by looking at the people who are against it.