By John Tate
Sometimes, even after more than 30 years working in politics, I am amazed at my own naiveté. It shouldn’t happen. I should be hardened and callous and untrusting of almost all politicians and certainly of government bureaucracies. Never should I doubt the irrationality of politicians and bureaucrats who “want to help me.”
I’ve been doing this a long time. Over 35 years. I’ve worked on Capitol Hill, I’ve run campaigns, I’ve worked for outside lobbying groups, I’ve trained thousands of activists. In short, I’ve spent my entire life dedicated to fighting the good fight.
But none of this prepared me for my recent foray into health insurance.
I fought Obamacare. I wrote about it and spoke out against it. I mobilized hundreds of thousands of people against it through direct mail, emails and TV ads. I am still fighting it today.
I knew it was bad. But I didn’t realize how bad.
It took me until recently to realize what I have fought against for so long is actually far more horrible than even my most bombastic direct mail copy on the issue!
You see, throughout the fight I had insurance. As far as health insurance goes, mine was not a bad plan. I have great doctors, some of whom I have been seeing for over 30 years.
Sure, my premiums skyrocketed after the “Affordable Care Act” became law. Sure, there was more paperwork. But by and large, things were okay. I kept my doctors, kept my plan, and received excellent health care.
I didn’t realize how good I had it.
The employer through which I had my insurance let me go due to budget constraints. So, I went on COBRA (or so I thought). COBRA allows employees to remain on a company plan for 18 months after they leave the company. The only catch: the employee now has to pay the full premium. In my case, my employer had paid 60 percent of the monthly premium. I now had to pay the full 100 percent.
But, again, I liked my insurance (if you can really like insurance, that is), and I had other work that allowed me to pay the full premium. It was all good for a year.
Then, on a cold day in early January, at the Harris Teeter Pharmacy in Warrenton, it all ended.
That day, I went to pick up a prescription, only to be told by the pharmacist I did not have insurance. I was outraged. I had paid all my premiums; in fact, I had already paid my January premium.
I drove home and called my insurance company. After the usual five minutes getting through their “efficient” automated system, and another 35 minutes on hold, I finally talked to someone.
She informed me my employer had canceled my insurance, she knew why, but was forbidden by the Affordable Care Act to explain further. I contacted my former employer. They had no idea, they had not canceled anything.
Back to the insurance company. Another five minutes navigating the fancy automated phone system and another long hold (almost an hour this time).
I talked to the woman who answered the phone, then to her supervisor, and then to his supervisor. No. They aren’t allowed to discuss the issue with me. Yes, they know what happened, but no, they are forbidden by the Affordable Care Act to explain it to me.
Not so calmly now, I explained to them; I talked to my employer, they did not cancel it, this was my insurance, I paid for it, and therefore, I should have the right to know what’s going on.
But they offered no new information. I had been canceled by my employer. And, Obamacare laws forbade them from telling me any more than that.
Finally, two days later my former employer emailed me to inform me the insurance company was right. It seems I was actually never on COBRA. Instead, I was on something called the Virginia Health Insurance Continuation Insurance, which only lasts 12 months.
So, with no notice, no warning and within a week of receiving my new 2018 insurance card, I found myself uninsured.
Unfortunately, in our quasi-socialist health care system, insurance has become almost a must for people like me. So, I did what any sane person would do. I called my old insurance company to get a price on getting insurance as an individual.
This time it took 10 to 15 minutes to navigate the fancy automated system (I was going into new territory here), and then another hour on hold, followed by two more transfers until I finally was sent to the right department.
The business sales department. I have a small business. One employee, me. The website for my insurance company proudly exclaims they offer small business health insurance plans for companies with 1-50 employees.
Perfect. That’s my company. One employee, me. I’m ready to hand over my money and get some small business health insurance.
Not so fast. Turns out 1-50 employees really means a minimum of two unrelated employees. Wait. Your website clearly says 1-50.
Sorry. That’s not how it works. One employee doesn’t qualify, not after the Affordable Care Act. “Sorry, but our hands are tied by the law.”
The woman on the phone seemed to sympathize with my plight, however, so she agreed to transfer me to the individual plan sales office. More hold music (a whole concert this time), and then I get to explain my situation again. But, under the Affordable Care Act, it seems I am not eligible for insurance with their company.
I hear once again what is becoming an all too familiar sentiment: they would surely like to help, but their hands are tied by the Affordable Care Act.
I am beside myself. Wait. I want to send you money, for a service you provide, and the government says I can’t? “Sorry. Our hands are tied by the Affordable Care Act.”
I inform her rather pompously that I will just take my money elsewhere and get insurance.
Polite laughter. I am informed that under the Affordable Care Act I can’t buy individual insurance from any insurance company. “But, don’t worry,” she says. “You can still get insurance. It’s easy. Just go to healthcare.gov and purchase it there.”
I am not technologically inclined at all. I can usually check email, sometimes send a tweet, occasionally even text a picture to someone. But, I do know how to navigate a website and fill out online forms. Well, I thought I did.
Suffice it to say, after four hours on the website and phone calls to tech support at healthcare.gov, I am able to submit my application. Success. I am informed I do qualify. All I have to do now is pick a plan from my “many” options, pay my outrageous premium, and I’m good to go.
But wait. I am only “eligible” to purchase one of four plans, all from the same insurance company. All significantly more than what I had been paying and, to top it off, not one of my doctors participate in these plans.
So, to get health insurance I must:
- Pay more than my usual premium
- Find all new doctors
- Only buy it from this one company
- Receive worse insurance coverage
- I am still without health insurance.
This entire disgusting process has made me realize a couple things.
The Republican Congress must keep its promises and repeal Obamacare.
This country must somehow return to the free market. The ever encroaching statist/socialist approach will surely even further damage this great nation.
And finally, no matter how bombastic my copy is against Obamacare, it doesn’t go far enough.
John Tate has spent the last 30 years working in the political, lobbying, and non-profit world. He is the founder and President of JFT Consulting, Inc., a political and non-profit consulting firm, and is President of America’s Liberty PAC (ALPAC) a Super PAC dedicated to the election and re-election of Rand Paul, and to promoting conservative/libertarian candidates. Previously John was the Campaign Manager for the Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee and as National Political Director for the 2008 Ron Paul Presidential Campaign. He was President of Campaign for Liberty, 501 C4 a grassroots lobbying organization that grew out of the 2008 Ron Paul Presidential campaign. Prior to joining Campaign for Liberty, John served as the Vice President, Membership for the Leadership Institute and spent 14 years with the National Right to Work Committee, serving as Vice President from 1998 to 2004. In 1996, John was the GOP nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd district. Follow him on Twitter @JohnTateVA