Killing the Affordable Care Act with a thousand cuts

When people can’t get insurance, they die. It’s that simple.

 

If you need health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, I can’t help you.

Something happened last night that makes it illegal for me to answer your questions and it is a deliberate attempt to take away our access to health care.

For the last four years, I have been a Navigator, a volunteer who helps people get health insurance. But as of today, I no longer can answer your questions.

We have been muzzled by funding cuts.

You see, there’s a rule that we can only work as volunteers through agencies that were funded to oversee us. That was to protect consumers from charlatans who might steer them the wrong way.

But this administration realized that if they cut the “advertising” funding (more accurately, outreach funding), agencies wouldn’t be able to pay the person who oversees the volunteers, and without that person, the volunteers wouldn’t be able to do their work. We could be silenced.

I haven’t seen this in the news yet, what with Harvey and Irma and Mueller and all.

It’s just not big enough news.

But it will be enough to keep a lot of people from getting the face-to-face help they need.

Make no mistake, this is a direct attack on the ability of some 33 million people to get health insurance, and with it, access to lifesaving care.

When Congress failed to kill the ACA, the Occupant of the White House swore he would find a way to do it, and he has decided to do it through seemingly innocuous funding cuts.

It’s no accident that the outreach budget was cut — that action muzzled thousands of volunteers who were trained to help. Don’t think the Occupant didn’t know that.

Consumers will think we didn’t need that “advertising” budget because everyone knows you can just go to www.healthcare.gov and get insurance.

But what if you hit a bump in the road? It’s easiest to get past any hurdles if you’re sitting with someone who understands the process and the law. Yes, you can call the 800 number, but what if there’s a 20-minute wait? A navigator would have answered the question then and there. It’s just another way to make the process less simple and less convenient.

I know what happens when people can’t get access to health insurance — they lose access to care, and they die. I have watched it happen. That’s why I became a Navigator.

On Tuesday, I’ll return the laptop to the agency where I volunteered. I’ll still take the training to qualify as a Navigator for 2018, but it’s not likely I’ll be able to use that training to help anyone.

By law, I can’t help you.

But let me know if you have any questions, I can point you to the answers. And if I happen to be in the room when you’re shopping for insurance, I will help you point the cursor to the right place on the screen. I can explain any jargon you have trouble with — kind of like your own personal dictionary.

We’ll call it my little act of resistance.

 

 

 

Attacks from every direction

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

No longer content to just badmouth and vilify hardworking Americans, it seems the right has started actively trying to kill them.

In NC, the legislature has voted to deny 600,000 people access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, even though it would bring down billions in federal dollars and create 25,000 jobs, not to mention save lives.

This move will mean more suffering among the more than half-million people who can’t gain access to health care. We’re talking about more heart attacks and strokes, more complications from diabetes — kidney failure, blindness, limb amputations — more advanced cancers, more intractable mental illnesses, more asthma emergencies … the list goes on.

The legislature’s choice of a twisted ideology over compassion and decency will increase medical costs and people will still suffer and die unnecessarily.

And if you’ve been unlucky enough to have your job shipped overseas, that’s too bad too because the legislature has voted to overhaul unemployment insurance by slashing benefits and the amount of time people are eligible to receive them. North Carolina now has the shortest compensation time in the country — in some cases just 12 weeks.

Not to mention that when people lose their jobs they also lose their health benefits, but our legislators don’t care about that.

My inbox is full of e-mails begging me to sign one petition or another to prevent the North Carolina GOP from de-funding education, raping the environment, rigging taxes so the rich pay less and the rest of us pay more, punishing workers for wanting to make a living wage, making a naked power grab by firing everyone on state regulatory commissions …

I can’t keep up with it all, and that’s just in North Carolina.

In Washington, the GOP is still refusing to cooperate with anything the President wants to do.

They’re filibustering against Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense; they’re saying they’ll block a minimum wage increase, they’re slowing down gun safety laws, and the House GOP is still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I’m exhausted from e-mailing and calling and traveling to try and get these people to listen to reason about the Medicaid expansion, but I’m just met with a stone wall. My own representative doesn’t answer my e-mails, not does Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory did answer an e-mail from my friend, Eileen McMinn, though. He sent her a form e-mail asking if she would donate money to him.

They’re ignoring us, and I suppose they have reason to believe they can get away with it because we seem to be lying down and playing dead.

How many of us have e-mailed, called or snail-mailed our state representatives or governor over these issues? How about our federal representatives? Have we thanked the ones who are doing the right thing? I e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, to thank him for voting in favor of the Violence Against Women Act.

There’s a lot at stake here. You may not think you’ll ever need Medicaid, but if your job gets shipped overseas and you get just $350 a week for 12 weeks, what then? How long can you keep making house and car payments? What if you get sick on top of all that?

We are all at risk here, and we all need to take action. Democracy is participatory. If we don’t participate — and by that I mean becoming educated about the issues and voting according to our convictions — this is what we get.

If you don’t know who your representative is in the US House, visit www.hoismyrepresentative.com.

If you don’t know who your state senators or representatives are, you can visit www.ncleg.net or call your county’s board of elections.

If you’re one of those who say, “I’m just not interested in politics,” shame on you! You’re part of the reason we’re in this mess.

 

There are no limits to violence in entertainment

The US Supreme Court has decided that there are no limits to the violence in video games for children. A 6-year-old can walk into a store and buy the most gruesome, bloody game on the shelf.

The decision was based on First Amendment free speech rights, but other types of obscene materials, such as sexually explicit content, animal cruelty and child pornography are off-limits. Children can’t walk into an X-rated movie, so why should they be able to play a game where they can behead someone and watch the blood spurt?

California’s law was vague, unfortunately, but states are allowed to regulate sexually explicit material, so why not excessive violence?

I’m a strong proponent of the First Amendment, but children need to be protected from violence as much as they need to be protected from porn.

Studies have shown that children become enured to violence when they see too much of it, and some video games are incredibly graphic and realistic.

Maybe I’m dreaming up a conspiracy where there isn’t one here, but the games are a great way to train children to serve in our endless wars.Violence is a game to them, so you don’t need a draft to get young people to fight wars for the profit of Halliburton and the like. The video game insustry itself is a $10 billion a year business. And the US Army has a video war game, “Americva’s Army,” that kids can play on the Web (http://www.americasarmy.com/aa3.php.)

According to the Washington Post and CBS News, the game is doing its job; people are playing and then lining up at recruitment centers to play the real thing after being conditioned online.

So, if California’s law is too vague, it’s up to state legislatures to write something less vague.

Some would say it’s up to parents to monitor what games their children can play and what movies they can see. Violent games and movies were forbidden in my house, but my boys had friends whose parents let them play the games or rented violent movies for them. There was a way to get around my prohibitions. I did model a disapproval of violence, but that’s not the strongest weapon when society says violence is fun.

If we ever want to get to a time of peace, we need to limit children’s access to violence. If we can keep the3m from these violent games, then real violence will shock them, and they’re less likely to line up willingly to be cannon fodder for the benefit of huge corporations.

 

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