Letters to the Editor

Mishaps with Obamacare

I’m sorry Ted Rall [“Registering for Obamacare: Crashes, More Crashes and Sticker Shock,” 11/15,/13 TPP] has had such a difficult time with Obamacare, but I think his piece created a false impression of unaffordability. The unsubsidized prices of plans offered in Mr. Rall’s zip code — from under $10,000 to over $30,000 in annual premiums — are indeed shocking. (In contrast to Mr. Rall’s situation, as a 53-year old, nonsmoker in Mid-Michigan, the ACA policies available to me range from under $3,700 to nearly $9,400.) Rall’s NYC neighborhood must be one of the most expensive, healthcare-wise, in the nation.

It’s unfortunate that the New York exchange crashed before it could provide subsidy information, because if Mr. Rall’s Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is south of 400% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL, currently $45,960 for an individual), he is guaranteed a subsidy that will prevent him from paying more than 9.5% of his income on his health premium, based on the second-lowest priced ‘silver’ level plan. This is the case no matter how expensive his area is. If Mr. Rall pulls in $45,000 in 2014, his share of the premium will be $4,275. The subsidy will amount to the difference between $4,275 and the benchmark silver plan. If the latter costs an astronomical $13,000 per year, then Mr. Rall’s subsidy will amount to $8,725. However, if Mr. Rall ends up making $45,960 or more, he will get no subsidy (or have to pay back the one he got). It’s kind of ridiculous, the starkness of the cutoff, but that’s the way it seems to work. I also think it’s a bit unfair to use 400% of the FPL across entire lower 48 states, and not account for vast differences in cost of living. A person can be making $50,000 and be struggling financially in a high-cost city such as New York or San Francisco.

Mr. Rall also states that the plans offered in the NY marketplace don’t allow subscribers to go “out of network.” I wonder if he really checked all of them. There are at least a couple on my exchange that provide this flexibility. However, the cost is steep in any insurance plan I’m aware of, inside or outside of Obamacare. The reason is that these plans typically only pay 60% of “reasonable and customary” costs. This leaves the healthcare consumer paying a fortune, because when one goes out of network, providers aren’t compelled to charge reasonable and customary amounts. This means that the “40%” coinsurance share of the bill the patient is stuck with may well amount to over 50% of the bill (although it should be noted that medical bills are negotiable). So, under almost any plan, the option of going out of network is cost-prohibitive, making this flexibility rather illusory.

Finally, I must take issue with the idea that insurance is “crappy” if in a typical year the insured pays much more in premiums and out-of-pocket costs than he or she receives in benefits. Mr. Rall seems to miss the whole point of insurance, which is to collectively pay for very expensive situations that would bankrupt individuals if we decided to just take our chances and pay our own way. In a typical year, Mr. Rall and many, many others will be paying for the extraordinarily expensive care (often in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars) needed by the small percentage of enrollees who encounter a serious illness or accident.

James D. Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

Unsustainable Austerity

Dean Baker’s article [“Republicans Are Delusional About US Spending and Deficits,” 11/15/13 TPP] in which he puzzles over why are the Republicans still so obsessed with deficits in spite of the improvements since 2009. There was a time in the early stages of G.W. Bush’s presidency when they never mentioned the word “deficit” nor was their worry about “how can we leave behind so much deficit for our children and grandchildren.” As a matter of fact V.P. Cheney announced something to the effect “that we are not worried about deficits.” That was then but now all that has changed — instead of presenting some cogent arguments their only reply is that such deficits are UNSUSTAINABLE. They are least concerned with how the poor and the middle-class populace will cope with the drastic austerity measures proposed by them. Frustration and hardships on the poor/middle-class is slowly mounting and the time is coming soon when their anger will be UNSUSTAINABLE — do we have to wait for this to happen?

G.M. Chandu
Flushing, N.Y.

Déjà Screwed

This is reference to Jim Hightower’s “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Corporate Coup in Disguise” and Jim Goodman’s “Trans Pacific Partnership is another win for corporations, a loss for the 99%” [11/1/13 TPP].

They who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it!

I woke up with a cold chill running down my spine. Because I know I had seen this film before and it hit me, yes, I did, it was called NAFTA and they are doing it again. The 99% get zero and the rich get richer. The fast food workers will get nothing. So now the only classes in the USA, the Super Super Rich and the Very Rich. And the corporations control the law and the rules nad they govern. There goes voting and elections. Look there is Ross Perot walking through while he drags his chains behind him and no one sees or hears him. While I walk to my wooden box I sit down and began shiva and saying kaddish for the middle class. The XL Pipeline is still on fire and the light shines on the wall and it reads as follows: As you treat the least of them so shall you receive. And Ross Perot walks by, dragging his chain. And I sigh and say goodnight.

S. Einhorn
Tampa, Fla.

Some Dare Call It Treason

I charge John Boehner and Tea Party representatives with TREASON. Treason: Betrayal of trust and faith, violation of allegiance owed to one’s country.

They gave aid and comfort to our enemies!

P.S. I am 84 and now angry!

Eleanor Huacuja
Kettering, Ohio

Tea Party Lacks Plan

While the paper gets better with each issue, particularly the 11/15/13 letters to the editor: “Economic Treason” by J. Ray Hunt, Broken Arrow, Okla.; “Social Security Skinflints” by Harvey Stoneburner, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and “Divided States of America” by Edward L. Koven, Highland Park, Ill. — this one should be framed as your “Mission Statement of 10 Rules to be Defeated as Your Objective Statement for Continued Offensive Against the Tea Party.” But then the cover story by Michael Lind, “South Holds America Hostage.” Really! Really? In what world, in what period of time is he living? This article might have been perfectly appropriate in 1890, perhaps 1900-1910, but even by that time it would have been out of touch and certainly out of date. I think he has made the same fundamental mistake that President Obama has made. He, rather both of them, think, also rather naively assume that the Tea Party = Southern White Racists and actually have a plan. They never had a plan, not even then in the Civil War years. Don’t attribute more intelligence to them than they actually have. They are now what they were then, just stupid, prejudiced, narrow-minded, backwards fools, guilty then and now of treason.

David Loera
Hammond, Ind.


How reassuring it was to read [“Party of Pain” by Froma Harrop, 11/15/13 TPP] that Charlie Dent, 15th District of Pa., is a Republican in the mold of Froma’s father. He’s also in the mold of a long line of 15th District US. Reps, both Democrat and Republican, going back to Francis “Tad” Walter of the House Un-American Activities Committee, through Fred Rooney, Don Ritter (who wore dashikis and long hair at Lehigh U. until handpicked by the Republican Party to defeat Rooney in the 1980s), thence Paul McHale, who left wife and family at home to jump into the first Gulf War, and finally Charlie Dent who has been a strong supporter of the present Iraq War and all wars subsequent. Charlie never spent 5 minutes in uniform, but never met a war he didn’t like. He now rests comfortably in the gerrymandered district which cut out Easton, Pa.

Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of being arrested with eight others in Dent’s office in 2006 for refusing to leave his office until he came in to hear our problems re the Iraq War. Charlie was home, but had to baby-sit and his office closes promptly at 5pm. We sat quietly and read the names of the war dead until the Bethlehem Police politely handcuffed us and drove us down to the station for booking.

Charlie Dent has always been a good little boy, doing just what he is told by his sponsors, and presumably aspires to be a good big boy never rocking the battleship of state. Young Froma might have found a more inspiring example of her father’s Republican Party had she taken some time to research.

Bernard J. Berg
Easton, Pa.

Honor a Hero

Would we be having a national examination of the role the NSA and other spy agencies in a free society, if Edward Snowden hadn’t revealed NSA’s secret activities?  Accusations of massive spying would be met with official denials, as they have for years. The lack of oversight and effective protection of our privacy rights remains a threat to us, and future generations. Rather than being honored as a hero, this brave whistleblower is being charged as a traitor. That just ain’t right.

Bruce Joffe
Piedmont, Calif.

Affordable Health Care Elusive

Thank you for  the 11/15/13 TPP. It ought to be required reading for all citizens, especially the editorial and commentaries about the affordable health care law. Problems with affordable health care isn’t a new phenomenon. In its last survey in 2000, the World Health Care Organization (part of the United Nations) ranked the quality of health care in the United States 37th best in the world. We also had the highest costs. The US is also one of the few Western democracies that doesn’t have a single-payer health care system. Question: Why isn’t progress being made? Answer: I believe that politicians have sold their souls to lobbyists for pharmaceutical, insurance companies, etc.

Bob Fisher
Encinitas, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2013


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