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My Turn: Another Subaru in a snow bank

Posted: December 6, 2013 - 1:02am

I normally don’t respond to the opinions of others when they react to something I write. Everyone has their own opinion, and I respect that. Besides, I’d rather write about something else. But there was a recent “My Turn” column published Nov. 28 that attempted to take me to task for my opinions regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Since the column was written by an official of the Democratic Party, further identified as a union official, I assume that means they were speaking on behalf of both the party and union. As such, the Democratic Party said some things that should give all Alaskans pause. 

First, let me apologize to Sen. Mark Begich for a few adjectives I used in my most recent column. In retrospect, I was disrespectful of his position as a senator for Alaska. I once had an employer who told me to never use adjectives when I write. Thank goodness he didn’t tell me never to use adverbs either, because I would have been as verbally high-centered as a Subaru in a snow bank. However, I am passionate about my positions, and I do think Sen. Begich has some explaining to do.

Secondly, I was recently characterized by an eloquent blogger as a “Fat Cat Republican.” I, in fact, do admit to my current capacity as part owner of a small business. Further, because I’m approaching 60 years in age, I suppose someone could put me in the category of an “Old Fat Cat Republican.” Despite whatever images one has of me — perhaps I’m wearing comfortable gardening shoes and an unwashed cardigan sweater — the reality is that the affects of the ACA directly impact many Alaskans, including myself. The Democratic Party may take offense to my insistence in speaking out against ACA, but they better get used to it since they’ll be hearing it until the law is fixed and those responsible are held accountable.

The Democratic Party conveniently ignored most of what I have written in the past, nearly all of which is solid fact that can be verified in any number of places. The part that may be hyperbole I attribute to my Subaru-in-the-snow-bank tendencies. And I don’t object to Democrats’ recitation of the presumed intentions of the ACA, or their unwavering admiration of the junior Senator (no disrespect intended), which are laudable. However, there were two positions taken that are especially breathtaking in their cynicism and which cloud conditions detrimental to Alaskans and Americans in general.

The Democratic Party wants you to believe that the $700 billion cut from Medicare was not a cut in the program corpus, but rather, were only cuts due to “waste and fraud.” Never mind that this amount is greater than the total annual budget for Medicare, or that they have no clue how to achieve that miracle. They already committed those “savings” — all $700 billion — as a major portion of the funding for the ACA. They simply raided one budget and put it into a new program. Presto! Does the party really think seniors are that stupid to believe that’s possible? Show me the savings and then we’ll talk. Besides, if a Republican suggested even so much as a reduction to increases in Medicare funding, much less an actual cut, the Democratic Party would have accused them of throwing Grandma off a cliff. (Oh, wait a minute, they did. Google it- the political video is incredibly crass but would be sort of funny if they weren’t serious).

The Democratic Party pulls funding from Medicare, throws it down the ACA rathole, and then wants seniors to believe that it won’t affect services. Apparently, to the purveyors of “waste and fraud,” that includes hospitals, medical professionals, para-professionals, non-profits and other caregivers. Reimbursement rates, access and services are being cut — and that’s a fact. Oddly, I found the clearest description of this fact on the normally ACA-protective NPR website.

Meanwhile, don’t hold your breath for the sleuths and rocket scientists that brought you the ACA website to find even a tiny fraction of that $700 billion in actual savings in the Medicare program. 

The other major mischaracterization from the Democratic Party is that somehow they have a monopoly on compassion. True enough, they are very good when compassion is defined as throwing other people’s money at problems. Never mind that the party has cheerfully forced the cancellation of over 5,000 insurance policies held by Alaskan members, many of whom are self-employed small businesses. Assuming an average household of 2.2 people, that’s the insurance coverage of over 10,000 Alaskans. And that’s just the beginning. In 2018, ACA will impose a 40 percent tax on what have been characterized as “Cadillac” plans — ones that offer comprehensive medical insurance. To be competitive, many small businesses offer comprehensive medical insurance to their employees, and the ACA will tax them into oblivion.

The Democratic Party is ok with that. You see, they believe that people with strong medical insurance are part of the reason some people aren’t insured. That’s why they included that tax in the ACA. Here is the rub: it’s not only the relatively voiceless small businesses that are going to be hit with this tax; it will also hit many big businesses as well as municipalities, school districts, University of Alaska plans, even the State of Alaska employee medical insurance can be subject to this tax.

I’d sure like to be a fly on the wall when the Democratic Party turns their hat around and, in the capacity of union official, explains to its membership how they must pay an additional 40 percent on their insurance. I wonder how that “we must all do our part” and “because we are more compassionate than everyone else” line of reasoning is going to go over with workers.

The cynic in me says that such larger organizations will get relief owing to their political connections, while relatively voiceless small business will be left paying the tax or be forced into the exchanges. That may very well come to pass, although the result may be even worse under-funding of the ACA. Maybe they can always look for more “waste and fraud.”

I want to thank the Democratic Party for pointing out how they despair for Alaska’s uninsured (with the exception of those who’s insurance was forced into cancellation), how much more Christian they are than those of us that commit the sin of opposing the ACA, and for reminding us what a wretched world this is due to Gov. Sean Parnell’s decision not to accept that pesky Medicaid carrot being dangled by the Sen. Begich and his political party.

I really don’t have a dog in that fight, but I was thinking about it and I have a Christmas gift of an idea that I think the governor could accept, and should certainly be acceptable to Sen. Begich and the rest of the Democratic Party.

Using the same logic as they did with the ACA, and as reaffirmed in the party’s recent My Turn column, why don’t we assume they can find the same amount of “waste and fraud” in Medicaid as they did from Medicare. For Christmas, lets just give that amount, about $490 billion, to Medicaid. Bingo! We fully fund an expansion in Medicaid. Then people will view Gov. Parnell as a proper Christian, Sen. Begich will like him again, and the Democratic Party will have more money to be compassionate with. Then we can all go home, put on our comfortable gardening shoes, and feel good about ourselves over a hot toddy. It will be a Merry Christmas for everyone.

• Yorba is an Juneau resident.

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