My Government-Subsidized Health Plan and What That Means to Joe Sixpack

I work for a company that provides above-average health benefits. My employer has even raised the ire of some municipalities in this great nation by extending those benefits to non-married partners without asking about gender or gender preference. A partner’s a partner; no need to make it complicated.

My employer, in turn, can write off the portion of the the cost of my health plan that they pay. In a big company like mine, that’s some serious money. And since I’m not taxed on the portion of the plan my company picks up, it results in a big chunk of tax money going to my health plan. It’s an untaxed benefit, and it means that eventually someone else will have to pick up the tab.

There is a dichotomy these days, where Democrats (often mistaken for liberals) are saying, “We want to cover your health for a reasonable cost,” and Republicans (often mistaken for conservatives) are saying, “That shit don’t work, we’ll get you jobs and HONORABLE health care. We’ll get you the same tax-privileged shit those Democrats who are talking down to you already have.”

The Republicans are lying; they don’t have the power to get everyone jobs. But the message resonates, even if the people hearing it don’t know about the tax privilege I enjoy. They know that the insurance an employer gives you is better, and really what else matters? If everyone has jobs, there is no problem with access to health care. The answer that comes from the rust belt Trump supporter who is about to lose his ACA coverage is, “fuck Obamacare, give me a fuckin’ job.”

The down-and-out are shooting the moon. They don’t want government support, they want jobs. I can’t overemphasize that. And they elected a guy who lied and said they would work again. Meanwhile, folks like me, who barely realize the billions our government forfeits so we can have good coverage, scratch our heads and wonder why Joe Six-pack doesn’t see what’s right in front of his face.

We have to end the hidden subsidy for my health plan, and we have to disconnect the need for health care from some weird code of honor. Health care should not be a perk. Health care is what we do for one another.

When you say, “we can’t afford single payer,” don’t forget to account for the billions in tax dollars the current system hides. I, for one, am ready to pay.

Knives Episode 29 Published!

A quiet murder, followed by a confrontation. Martin doing what Martin does best. But this time, his best may not be enough.

This episode went well, writing-wise; there were some details I had to work out for realism but the overall chain of events was pretty set. The rest was a matter of the small things. If there’s one thing I regret about the serial format, it’s that when I read an episode long since published I often wish I spent more time on the small things. It’s a lesson the Kansas Bunch has been trying to pound into my head for years now: The life of the story is in the little details.

We have in the narrative an honest-to-god MacGuffin now, and I have mixed emotions about that. It’s a time-honored device that appears in some of the best stories ever, but it also serves as a crutch in some pretty bad writing (see, “The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy”). I had intended to resolve this particular item fairly quickly, making it more a clue to the mystery rather than an object of great contention, but… well. I might not.

Please enjoy Episode 29.

Patio Life Returns

Life is good.

The Trickiest Part of Universal Health Care

Health insurance is not like other insurance. Take fire insurance. Chances are, your house will never burn down. But you pay a little bit each month so that if you should be the unlucky one, you will have the cash to move on with your life.

Health insurance is different. Sure, you are protecting against disaster, but it’s not if you will have a health disaster, it’s when. We will all of us get sick. So sick we might die. It’s just a matter of time. Health insurance is about all of us putting our resources together so the sick people can get better without bankrupting themselves.

For this plan to work, healthy people need to pay into the system. The Affordable Care Act, lovingly known as Obamacare, tries to force healthy people into the system by taxing them if they don’t have insurance. This is not popular, and I’m not surprised. The new plan proposed by the Republicans does away with that, replacing it with an even more ill-advised penalty for coming back.

The core of the problem is this: Your insurance is only as good as the group of people in your pool. If you’re in a pool with lots of young, healthy people, your costs are low. The insurance companies have been slicing us into literally thousands of pools, and have made rules to keep people who are already sick out of any pool at all.

Both ACA and the new Republican plan miss the point. The problem is not how to force healthy people into the pool that has the sick people. The problem is that there are too many pools. Insurance companies make a shit-ton of money slicing and dividing us, and it’s time to come to a simple realization: we’re all in this together.

One pool.

I’m still pretty healthy, but the insurance companies don’t come a-courtin’ the way they used to. I’m sliding into the riskier part of the actuarial table. Still, I work for a company that takes care of its people, to a level I’m not allowed to talk about. I’ve got good health care, though, and my company doesn’t spend as much as it might because overall its employees are a pretty good pool.

Chances are, I’d be on the losing end if all the pools were united, but I’m OK with that. More than OK. Excited at the idea. Excited that the emergency rooms across the nation won’t be clogged with people who needn’t have been there if they had access to basic care. Excited that maybe some of the homeless I pass each day on my bicycle may be able to get the care they need and, yes, get a fucking job.

Side note: the phrases “Get a fucking job, you bum!” and “They took our jobs!” often come out of the same mouth.

So let’s get back to the basics and realize that the offerings of both parties fail to understand the core of the problem. It’s not about pushing people into a pool that’s disadvantageous to them, it’s about getting rid of all the goddam pools.

One pool.

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Knives Episode 28 Published!

It’s been a while, for which I apologize. This episode was more difficult than I anticipated; on the surface it’s just a series of actions, but adding the nuances of Martin’s voice to narrative was trickier than it should have been.

Next episode has killing in it, so it should be easier.

Behind the scenes, my new health regimen has been a little at odds with my writing routine; so I’ve made the command decision to allow health rule breakage in cases where writing benefits directly. This might be the time to buy shares in Scottish distilleries.

In OTHER behind-the-scenes news, this will be the weekend I straighten out the patron-only content. I promise.

Please enjoy Episode 28: Down the Hole.

The Washington Video Game

You know how in a video game, one of those shoot-em-up things, you get to the Boss Lair and there he is, mighty and grotesque, sending fireballs and/or rockets at you. He’s right there, and so you fire off a burst of bullets/lasers/magical exploding crystals to finish him of.

But hold on there Sparky! All those shots are wasted. Why? Because between you and the Boss are the Protector Minions. Until you take care of them, your attacks on the boss are futile. Those minions are pretty badass themselves, and until they’re gone, you can’t kill the Boss.

In Washington, the Protector Minions are the Republican leadership in Congress. Two years ago, they (rightly) hated and distrusted Putin and Russia. (Rightly) hating Russia was part of the Republican identity. Now there will be no investigation into a foreign power influencing our elections, because the Protector Minions have formed a circle around the Boss.

At one point I thought that perhaps if something really terrifically damning came out about our president, that the Protector Minions would turn on him, but it’s too late for that. They have already overlooked too much, compromised conservative ideals too much. They burned their ships. There is nothing they can do to save their careers if Trump goes down.

Though perhaps, I hope, when the missing 19% ownership of the Russian state oil company is resolved, at least a few of the Protector Minions would see the writing on the wall. (You might recall that Putin promised Trump 19% of the company if he got elected. In December, a chunk that size + fees changed hands into a black hole.)

Correction: It would appear that what was offered to Trump’s friends was the brokerage of the 19% deal, according to the Christopher Steele documents. Still a massive pile of cash. Only some of the 19.5% is still missing, but the numbers don’t quite add up.

The question of the moment is not, “How do you impeach a president?” because the House of Representatives holds the power of impeachment and the Protector Minions will not allow that process to start. So first the House must be wrested from the Protector Minions. The real burning question is, “how do you turn enough of congress against the Protector Minions?”

The Sanctity of Life

There are a lot of people who voted for our current president with the logic, “he can burn the country to the ground as long as he kills the Affordable Care Act and overturns Roe v. Wade.” We all have our hot-button issues.

I have a friend who might die if the ACA is repealed. I’m not making this shit up to create a straw man, so let me repeat myself. My friend, someone I worked with for several years, needs ongoing care to stay alive and without the ACA he won’t get it. He seriously might die.

He’s an interesting guy; if I have my stories straight he once taught unarmed combat at an anti-terrorism school in exchange for submachine gun training. You know, just your average liberal snowflake. He used to sit outside the office on his lunch breaks playing exotic (to me) musical instruments.

I wonder if any of the no-ACA right-to-lifers out there would like to sit in a room with him and explain their stand on the sanctity of life, and why they are so intent on letting him die.

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