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The Human Face of Obamacare

If you like your president, you can keep him. Period. But what if you don’t? Stephen Blackwood, the president of the fledging Ralston College in Savannah, Georgia, has a sad, infuriating piece about his mother’s experience with Obamacare this morning in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve all heard stories -- but not as frequently as we ought to hear them from sources like the New York Times and other Obama enablers -- about people whose insurance was was suddenly cancelled because it was deemed to be “illegal” or otherwise inadequate according to our masters in Washington (who by the way do not have to worry about the same thing happening to them, since Obamacare doesn’t apply to the political elite, only to us peasants).

In some ways Stephen Blackwood’s case is typical. His mother, who had been diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer in 2005 when she was only 49, had been receiving treatment through her insurer. She had had the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years.  It was expensive, but so was her treatment. “It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.” Then came November. She, like millions of other Americans, woke up one day and found out that her plan was cancelled.  So when Obama  said (as he said over and over and over again when selling Obamacare) “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period,” he really meant: “Ha, ha, you just put the federal government in charge of your health care and now we can do whatever we want whenever we want. Period.”

The story Stephen Blackwood tells is like something out of Kafka—or, perhaps a closer analogy, like something out a totalitarian satrap, for there is nothing fictional about this nightmare. The mind-numbing bureaucracy. The stunning incompetence. The casual, unthinking brutality. It’s all there, coming to a shattered life near you. One day Mrs. Blackwood had the health insurance plan she had paid for for two decades. Then, “because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing." Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Rien.

What happened next? First, “Because the exchange website in her state (Virginia) was not working, she went directly to insurers' websites and telephoned them, one by one, over dozens of hours.”  Mrs. Blackwood was no naif. “As a medical-office manager, she had decades of experience navigating the enormous problems of even our pre-ObamaCare system.” She knew her way around the medical paperchase. But “nothing could have prepared her for the bureaucratic morass she now had to traverse.”

As many people warned before the hilariously named “Affordable Care Act” came on line, its implementation, from an administrative point of view, would be like putting the DMV in charge of your health care. “The repeated and prolonged phone waits were Sisyphean,” Mr. Blackwood reports, “the competence and customer service abysmal.” Was there light at the end of the tunnel? “When finally she found a plan that looked like it would cover her Sandostatin and other cancer treatments, she called the insurer,  Humana, to confirm that it would do so.” How dark is your sense of humor? It looked good—at first.

The enrollment agent said that after she met her deductible, all treatments and medications—including those for her cancer—would be covered at 100%. Because, however, the enrollment agents did not—unbelievable though this may seem—have access to the "coverage formularies" for the plans they were selling, they said the only way to find out in detail what was in the plan was to buy the plan. (Does that remind you of anyone?)

And just as Nancy’s Pelosi’s horrible Madame-Defarge-like rictus was the prelude to the disillusionment that is Obamacare in action, so it was here. Mrs. Blackwood, with no other options, bought the plan. Come January, it still wasn’t showing up online. She called, repeatedly, to confirm that it was active. The agent told her: “Don’t worry, it’s not my life.”  No, actually, he said, “Don’t worry, you’re definitely covered.”

Then on Feb. 12, just before going into (yet another) surgery, she was informed by Humana that, Oh, by the way, we are not going to cover that drug Sandostatin, or other your other cancer-related medications.  Since January 1, Mr.  Blackwood reports, the cost of the Sandostatin alone was $14,000.

Think about that.

Again, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama can afford to pass the bill, then find out what’s in it, because it does not apply to them. But, assuming you are not George Soros, how would you like to get a bill for $14,000 for a month and a half worth of medication? $14,000 (just for that one drug) and Humana (I include the link in case you wish to write to tell them what you think of them) was not going to pay.

So here you have it: Mrs. Blackwood “had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren't happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn't cover her condition and it's completely unaffordable.”

Got that?

This is no abstract political bargaining chip. It is the life of your mother, your child, your spouse. Mr. Blackwood is under no illusions about the state of American health care before Obamacare. He well understands that there were things wrong with it. And he understands that the intention—or at least the professed intention—of the Act was to provide coverage for those who didn’t have it.  (In fact, as I have often had occasion to observe in this space, I believe that Obamacare is only incidentally about providing health care. At bottom, in my view, it is about exerting central government control over more of your life.)

But let’s leave intentions—be they good or malevolent, or, possibly, both good and malevolent—to one side. Surely, as Mr. Blackwood points out, “there is something deeply and incontestably perverse about a law that so distorts and undermines the free activity of individuals that they can no longer buy and sell the goods and services that keep them alive. ObamaCare made my mother's old plan illegal, and it forced her to buy a new plan that would accelerate her disease and death.” (Remember what that kooky dame Sarah Palin said about “death panels”?  Really, that’s just another name for “triage.”)

There is certainly room for creative thinking about fixing the American health care system. One thing that the disaster of Obamacare should have taught us is the folly of believing that we can contrive a centrally planned, one-size-fits-all solution that can be effectively administered from Washington, D.C.

This is the sad, the enraging truth:

The "Affordable" Care Act is a brutal, Procrustean disaster. In principle, it violates the irreducible particularity of human life, and in practice it will cause many individuals to suffer and die.

You won’t find chilly, insulated elites like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama admitting it, but the blood of Mrs. Blackwood and millions of other Americans harmed by their thoughtless legislation is on their heads. Obamacare is a totalitarian scheme masquerading as a humanitarian enterprise.  Its human cost is incalculable, but already, just a few months in, we’re beginning to get a sense of the suffering it will cause.  When your treatment for cancer is disallowed, when your daughter cannot get the medicine she needs, when your mother’s insurance is cancelled, will you still go gently into that good night of liberal sanctimony? Or will you finally realize that when Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” this might not have been the beneficent program the New York Times and other such outlets led you to believe?