After the Show

After the Show

by Bill Freeda

NABET-CWA National Coordinator and President of the Media Sector, CWA Retired Members Council

“America Is A Stupid Country”

“America is a stupid country.” Those are not my words, brothers and sisters. I am quoting Bill Maher from a July 2009 interview with Wolf Blitzer, which aired on CNN. Maher is a political satirist, so I take much of what he says with a good deal of skepticism. Even when I agree with his basic premise, I am frequently uncomfortable with many of his stated views, so when he said, “America is a stupid country,” I just laughed it off (as I do many of his comments).

            At least, that was what I did until Election Day 2016, when his statement may have proven to be true. It never occurred to me that Donald Trump could ever become President of the United States of America. I have come to realize that people, even educated people, will believe whatever they want to believe and because of that, they frequently vote against their own interests. Americans need to understand that elections have consequences. Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare.”

            Since this a column is about retiree issues, let us examine some of the changes that will occur to Medicare if and when the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

            Medicare recipients will have to pay for their annual “wellness visit.” (That’s the one you’re not allowed to refer to as an “annual checkup.”)

            Remember the preventive services you received at no cost: flu shots, colonoscopies, mammograms, diabetes screenings, etc.? They will no longer be cost-free if the ACA is repealed.

            Currently, Medicare Part D recipients receive a 50% discount on their brand name prescription medications while caught in the infamous “donut hole,” or coverage gap. Upon repeal of the ACA, they will pay full price for those medications. Let us talk more about the donut hole. Since the ACA was passed in 2011, the donut hole has been gradually reduced and is scheduled to disappear completely in 2020. If the ACA is repealed, the donut hole will not disappear, and perhaps it will go back to what it was before 2011. (Cue the applause from the pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries!)

            Let us now turn our attention to some non-Medicare provisions of the ACA that will be lost. Currently, if you are pre-Medicare, members of your family cannot be denied health insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions: GONE!!! Having your children covered on your health insurance until they are 26? That’s GONE too.

            Oh, I know House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump say they will retain some of these provisions in their “new law,” but somehow, we haven’t seen any of the provisions of that new law yet. In fact, we haven’t seen any of the proposed law at all. President Trump said the repeal of the ACA and the effective date of the new law would be almost simultaneous. If you believe that, please contact me and I can give you a great deal on purchasing the George Washington Bridge!

            Brothers and sisters, there are powerful forces in this country that would like nothing better than to eliminate Medicare and Social Security as we know them. This election put those powerful forces one step closer to accomplishing their goal. To those of you who say, “HEY, THEY CAN’T DO THAT,” I reply, “OH YES THEY CAN!!!”

            To my brothers and sisters who cast their votes based on social issues, or their concern they would lose their Second Amendment rights, I ask you to compare that with losing Social Security and Medicare in their current, much-appreciated form.

            Speaker Ryan has named his new version of Medicare “A Better Way.” Better for whom? Ryan’s plan calls for “premium support.” What that means is that you will receive a voucher from the federal government, which enables you to go into the “marketplace” and purchase your own individual Medicare plan. Let’s examine this a little closer. Is this premium support indexed for healthcare inflation for future years? Will you even be able to purchase a plan comparable to what you receive from traditional Medicare for the amount of the voucher? Will insurance companies, in their infinite wisdom and well-known generosity, insure you at all? After all, the older you get, the more likely you will actually need medical care. So why would insurance companies want to insure “old, sick people” with affordable and effective insurance? In short, they probably wouldn’t.

            Brothers and sisters, we have to realize as a retiree and senior citizen, we can no longer elect our officials based solely on party. In fact, I think retirees and senior citizens should form our own party, a party whose goals and focus would be to protect what we have earned during our long working lives.

            One of the saddest and more ironic stories of this past election concerns coal miners. Our new president promised that he would bring back coal mining. That is not likely, but if the ACA is repealed, which is likely, families of coal miners who died of black lung disease will lose a government payment that had been included in the ACA. What makes this story even more ironic is that coal-mining regions voted for President Trump 80% to 20%. Their reasoning was that they wanted to send a message to the “elite” in this country. Well, they certainly did that, and now they are paying a price for that message.

            Let us return to the title of my column. In a recent conversation, a colleague of mine was told that they did not need Obamacare because they have the Affordable Care Act. Of course, they are one in the same. SO, BILL MAHER WAS RIGHT.

            Finally, nothing would make me happier than to write a future column entitled, “I WAS WRONG” instead of “I TOLD YOU SO.”