Thursday, February 06, 2014

The best thing about Obamacare -- that isn't the best thing about Obamacare

Of course, the really best thing about Obamacare is that a lot of people will come out of this launch period with insurance that enables them to go to doctors when they get sick. Why they can even go for tests and meds that might help them not get sick in the first place! About time. And it should be a source of shame that the Supreme Court and nativist Republicans have created enough exclusions so that some 30 million people in this country (preponderantly poor Blacks in Southern states and immigrants everywhere) still won't be able to avail themselves of medical care for want of cash.

This week, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that Obamacare means that in 2021 there will be 2.3 million less full-time workers in this country. That's because of the other best thing about Obamacare.

Obamacare will change one of the worst parts of being age 55 through 65 for many working people. Just about everyone in that age group has some condition that would have enabled an insurance company to exclude them from coverage -- the dread "pre-existing condition". No more under Obamacare. If you can pay their bill, they have to insure you. (And for some people, there's a subsidy from the government to help pay.)

And there's more. In the past, the only way for someone with a pre-existing condition to get insurance was through an employer's group policy. So, if you were between 50 and 65 (Medicare age) and you had a job where the employer provided insurance, you had to stay in your job, even if you hated your work, even if you were just barely able to do it because of the infirmities of aging, even if you were humiliated by agism in the workplace. So you hung on. That's called "job lock."

Did you know that the average age of retirement in the United States is currently 61 years old? The average age of retirement has actually gone up from 57 since the early 1990s. These averages imply that a lot of people would like to leave jobs or lose their jobs and can't get another before our nominal "retirement age" -- actually that is currently 66 for "full" Social Security benefits.

Now if you love your work, staying employed as long as you are able is a gift. But, if like most people, work is what you do because you have to, the fact that Obamacare frees many people from job lock is a very good thing. You still have living expenses and insurance to pay for if you quit, but you are not tied to a job you can't risk losing because you'll never be able to see your doctor or get your meds again.

Obamacare frees a significant fraction of the older population from this frightening bind. Republicans claim to be for freedom, but they can't seem to cheer about this. I guess for Republicans you only need freedom if you are an entrepreneur. A few days ago, House Republican leader Eric Cantor felt he had to explain the facts to his caucus:

"Ninety percent of Americans work for someone else," Cantor said, according to a source in the room. "Most of them not only will never own their own business, for most of them that isn't their dream. Their dream is to have a good job, with an income that will allow them to support their family."

Most of us already understood that. Haven't these Congresscritters ever worked for a living?


Kay Dennison said...

As always, you're right on!

Hattie said...

What I have seen is Obamacare enabling people over 55 to quit their full time jobs and move to part-time employment. This keeps them in the work force instead of forcing them into overwork or early retirement.
My husband does contract work for a start up company that employs him and several other scientists and engineers over 65. They are experienced, plus the boss does not have to cover their medical care. I think a lot more people will be working on that basis in the future.

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