It’s All In The Numbers

Copyright © by Len Holman, 4/9/14


  Numbers, it is said by those who disparage the fine arts, the liberal sciences, and the “soft” sciences, make up the cosmos.  Without numbers, where would we be? They ask.  Science, NSA and its algorithmic peaking and poking, baseball fanatics, and guys who tally their conquests (the number of THESE idiots is legion) would disappear. For instance, the number of missing passenger planes CNN is aware of: 1. The number of “panels” on the same network filled with experts on aviation (including some whose only experience with aviation is being able to spell it): hundreds. The number of blazing red headlines which read “Breaking News” on that very same network, all freakin’ day, and the number of new, actually breaking news stories on CNN: 0. 

  But here’s a bigger number: Seven-point-one million.  That’s the number of people (estimated by the Obama administration) registered for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This is a preliminary figure.  It does not count state exchanges which signed up people, nor does it count expanded Medicare exchanges.  The number, when finally tallied, will be much higher. MUCH higher. Number of Americans signed up on the ACA’s Medicaid expansion of eligibility: 4.5 million. And count in about three-and-a-half million young adults ages 18 to 25 who gained insurance under their parents’ coverage. This is welcome news to the administration and to those who never had health insurance before, or who had it but it only covered a band-aid and an aspirin for a train wreck…but it was cheap! 

  The total number of conservative Republicans who think this number is a good thing for Americans: 0. The number of conservative Republicans who think this number is a real one and not “made up” by the Obama team: 0. Conservative talking heads have gone from “This will never work, look at how the government website crashed!” to “Ok, people are finally enrolling, but more people go to Lakers games than this!” to  “A few million won’t be enough to keep the thing running.” To “They’ll never get to three million, let alone six.”  Now it’s seven million and counting, so what’s the new number?  It’s the number of young and healthy people who HAVEN’T signed up.  It’s also the number of people who haven’t paid for their coverage yet.  See, that seven-million-and-change number is padded because that’s only people who have signed up, NOT people who are actually covered. That happens when they pay.  That’s the new party line—so far. 

  Here’s another number: 30+ million people without health care.  But both sides (and there seems to be only two sides in EVERYTHING) have fixated on that seven million number, and that’s all we get.  The earliest the Republicans can repeal the ACA is 2017, and that’s if they control both houses of Congress and the big place on Pennsylvania Avenue.  By then (here are some pretty big numbers also) there will be about 24 million Americans in Obama’s coverage plan and about 12 million more covered by Medicaid expansion.  At that point, repeal would be just a bit easier than the job Sisyphus had.  People have a desire to be healthy, but medical costs are out of reach for many and not even a dream for a lot more.  Get 535 people—the number of our congresspeople and senators—together and see if you can get them to agree that Santa is fat.  Some will say “plump.”  Some will say “obese.”  Some will say his weight is a lifestyle choice and some will decry the lack of respect for a Christian tradition.  (A Christian tradition?) 

  There is no chance that anything approaching a real solution to healthcare for all of us is going to happen anytime soon.  There were seven legislative “tweaks” to the Massachusetts health care law passed under Mitt Romney, and that’s not unusual for a large and complicated law. And Massachusetts is not the United States. Think of Social Security or the Part D expansion under Little Bush.  This law is huge and intricate and needs work.  Will it get the fixes it needs to be really effective?  Current chances that will happen: 0. The number of times Paul Ryan will demand the repeal of Obamacare as a quid pro quo for anything this administration wants: a bunch.  This is also the number of outraged speeches by Democrats to such demands.  The number of times President Obama and his wife have looked out the window of the White House and wondered what the weather in Chicago was like right then: more than once—just this week. 

  There is no end to what NYMag.com called the “theological certainty” of conservatives that the ACA will fail.  Not stumble, not need fixing—FAIL.  It is clear that the Founding Fathers would find this all perplexing, since the point was to create a more perfect union and to ensure domestic tranquility.  And what could do that better than having the sure knowledge that you, your loved ones, and the country as a whole would be healthier and no that no one would be in danger of losing the house to pay a hospital bill for a child?  The number of times conservatives have either missed, or ignored, this simple truth:  Every damn time.


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