« | »

WSJ: Obama-Care Forced Mom Into Medicaid

An op-ed from the Wall Street Journal:

Nicole Hopkins: ObamaCare Forced Mom Into Medicaid

My mother preferred to pay for her care rather than be on the government dole. Now she has no choice.

By Nicole L. Hopkins | Nov. 20, 2013

My mother is not one to seek attention by complaining, so her recent woeful Facebook post caught my eye: "The poor get poorer." It diverged from the more customary stream of inspirational quotes, recipes and snapshots from her tiny cottage in Pierce County, Wash.

The post continued: "I just received a notice: ‘In order to comply with the new healthcare law, your current health plan will be discontinued on December 31, 2013.’ Currently my premium is $276 and it is a stretch for me to cover. The new plan . . . are you ready . . . projected new rate $415.20. Now I can’t afford health insurance." …

What a sign of the times, that a daughter would learn about her mother’s insurance problems on Facebook.

[M]ost of these people are still being offered the chance to choose what health-care insurance they will receive, or to opt out before they are automatically enrolled in a state program. Not so my mother, Charlene Hopkins, as I soon discovered when I called after seeing her Facebook post.

Since she couldn’t afford the new plan offered by her insurer, she told me she was eager to explore her new choices under the Affordable Care Act. Washington Healthplanfinder is one of the better health-exchange sites, and she was actually able to log on. She entered her personal and financial data. With efficiency uncommon to the ObamaCare process, the site quickly presented her with a health-care option.

That is not a typo: There was just one option—at the very affordable monthly rate of zero. The exchange had determined that my mother was not eligible to choose to pay for a plan, and so she was slated immediately for Medicaid. She couldn’t believe it was true and held off completing the application.

And here we thought ‘choice’ was important to the left. But that is part of the genius of Obama-Care. For many people it is just a direct chute into Medicaid. Which is exactly what Obama and the Democrats want.

"How has it come to this?" she asked in one of our several talks over the past few weeks about what was happening. When she was a working mother and I was young, she easily carried health insurance for our whole family. "How have I fallen this far?"

In 2011, she had to give up her real-estate license; as a newer agent, she did not stand to earn enough in the tough market to justify the fees to renew. She has since managed to eke out a living as a substitute para-educator in the Central Kitsap School District. "I’m not on the couch, watching TV," she said. "I’m out trying to find more work every day."

Unable to secure employer-sponsored health care, she had, until this fall, chosen to pay $276 a month for bare-bones catastrophic coverage. "I think that we should be able to take care of ourselves and to earn enough money to pay for basics, and health insurance is one of them," she told me. For two years she had paid out of pocket for that plan, but now she is being told that the plan isn’t good enough for her.

No, Medicaid will be much better. And never mind that it is nigh unto impossible to find a doctor who will take Medicaid patients. The federal government knows best.

The Sept. 26 letter from my mother’s insurer promised that the more expensive plan "conforms with the new health care law"—by covering maternity needs, newborn wellness and pediatric dental care. My mother asked: "Do I need maternity care at 52?" In addition to requiring her to pay an extra $1,677 annually, the plan would have increased her deductible by $1,500.

She can also get abortions and sex change operations. So what is she complaining about?

But she had at least been presented with an option that she could turn down, unlike on the state exchange.

The situation sounded absurd, so I asked her to walk me through her application on Washington Healthplanfinder to make sure she wasn’t missing anything. Sitting in New York with my computer, I logged onto the site under her name and entered the information my mother provided over the phone. I fully expected her to realize that she had forgotten some crucial piece of information, like a decimal point in her annual income. We checked and double-checked the information, but the only option still appeared to be Medicaid. She suggested clicking on "Apply for Coverage," thinking that other options might appear.

Instead, almost mockingly, her "Eligibility Results" came back: "Congratulations, we received and reviewed your application and determined [you] will receive the health care coverage listed below: Washington Apple Health. You will receive a letter telling you which managed care plan you are enrolled with." Washington Apple Health is the mawkish rebranding of Medicaid in Washington state.

The page lacked a cancel button or any way to opt out of Medicaid. It was done; she was enrolled, and there was nothing to do but click "Next" and then to sign out.

Of course, Medicaid is not a new option for my mother; she knew that she was poor enough to qualify for cost-free health care. It was a deliberate choice on her part to pay that monthly $276 out of her own pocket. Clearly she had judged that she received a personal benefit from not being on Medicaid.

"I just don’t expect anything positive out of getting free health care," she said. "I don’t see why other people should have to pay for my care, whether it be through taxes or otherwise." In paying for health insurance herself—she won’t accept help from her family, either—she was safeguarding her dignity and independence and her sense of being a fully functioning member of society.

Before ObamaCare, Medicaid was one option. Not the option. Before this, she had never been, in effect, ordered to take a handout. Now she has been forced to join the government-reliant poor, though she would prefer to contribute her two mites. The authorities behind "affordable care" had erased her right to calculate what she was willing to spend to preserve her dignity—to determine what she thinks is affordable.

That little contribution can mean the difference between dignity and despair.

For the truly poor, being institutionally forced to take welfare is demoralizing. The Affordable Care Act is at risk of systematizing learned helplessness by telling individuals like my mother that they cannot afford to care for themselves in the way they could before the law was enacted. "This makes me feel poorer than ever," she said.

They are taking this all wrong. They should learn to celebrate their new dependence.

My mother grew up, one of six children, in a dairy-farming family in Wisconsin. "The way I was raised, taking government handouts is shameful," she said. Her siblings stayed in Wisconsin, but she set out on her own. Finding herself forced onto Medicaid is not a fate that she ever would have imagined. "I guarantee I’m the only person in my family in this situation."

I’m proud to see the spiritedness and resolve that bears my mother up even now. Such character does not draw attention to itself: Its spark only catches the eye when oppression seeks to snuff it out.

Ms. Hopkins is a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Judging from her photo, she is also quite young. So she is almost certainly an Obama voter. Though, given her fiercely independent mother, maybe not.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, November 21st, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

No Responses to “WSJ: Obama-Care Forced Mom Into Medicaid”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


« Front Page | To Top
« | »