Obamacare, Great for Other People

chick1I have health insurance through my work…at least for now. I hope I never have to sign up for Obamacare.

That’s not too surprising, given my generally conservative principles. But what is surprising is that most of my liberal friends think exactly the same way I do! Why? Because, like me, they have good insurance through their companies. Less expensive insurance, with better coverage, and more doctors, than any insurance you’ll find on Obamacare.

This is sort of the big secret of my liberal friends. Sure they supported Obamacare. “People need health insurance, especially under-privileged people, and something should be done so they can be covered.” Of course, they themselves hoped to never have to use the same system! What’s good for poor people isn’t so good for those who are well off.

But Obamacare has already driven up insurance costs at companies, and it is only partially rolled out. Soon employers, especially those who offer good insurance at reasonable rates, will be faced with a difficult decision: drop employees and pay the measly $2,000 per employee penalty, or continue paying for skyrocketing insurance costs, ones that run $10,000 to $20,000 per employee per year.

For a capitalist company, where the bottom line is profit, paying $2,000 vs. $15,000 is a no-brainer. Multiply that by 5,000 employees and you start to see savings for the company in the tens of millions of dollars. And since employees can “just” sign up for their own insurance through Obamacare, there’s no harm done, right?

Of course, there is harm done, and companies know it. “Dumping the employees on the exchanges,” as it is known, will become a game of chicken between companies. Who is going to dare to do it first? Currently good companies that pay good salaries have to offer insurance in order to attract the best and brightest. Dumping employees on the exchanges would be a serious ding against any company in the eyes of its employees and potential employees. But once one big guy does it, others will be tempted to. Companies don’t want to be in the medical insurance business, and if they can get out of it, they will.

Obamacare is great for Other People. Not for you, not for me, not for Obama or wealthy politicians, but for the proletariat, the plebes, the unwashed masses.  We like to think that that is not us, but it actually is.

A Brief Digression

“But Obamacare has already helped me!” And it has helped some people. One of my family members benefited from an expensive surgery that he was able to do because he was 26 years old and could still be covered through a parent.

But why then not increase that age to 28 or 32 or 35? Then even more people would benefit from being able to stay on their parents plan! But of course, all this does is push the age that Americans consider a child to be an adult even more absurdly late. A 26 year old is an adult. So is a 24 year old, a 22 year old, an 18 year old. Allowing people to stay on parent insurance plans just encourages them to not take more responsibility.

What about preexisting conditions where people cannot get coverage? I think this is a truly difficult area. Maybe readers have ideas on how to solve it. Forcing insurance companies to cover it simply means that costs and therefore premiums will go up for everyone.

Another difficulty is conditions that people have brought upon themselves. What if, for argument’s sake, someone did lots of drugs, was promiscuous, and contracted HIV/AIDS? Is it the responsibility of “others” to pay for that person’s medical care? What moral responsibility do they have for paying for it? If I contracted HIV through my own immoral behavior, I would not expect that everyone else should foot the bill for my drugs and therapy. I caused my own problem through immorality!

Wrapping Things Up

Do you have any other options though? It’s either find insurance (through your work, your own search, or Obamacare) or pay the penalty. Ah, but there’s one “out” that hasn’t been closed off, and that is health-sharing ministries like Samaritan.

They are not insurance, but fill the role that insurance plays in many cases. You share your medical expenses with other Christians; you can negotiate some discounts; you avoid paying for abortions, contraception, and all the other evils Obamacare forces you to pay. Our plan is insurance through work then Samaritan then finding our own insurance and only if all else fails, Obamacare.

Software Developer Incompetence Allays Spying Fears

All Your Base
All Your Base

As a software developer, I am not overly concerned that the NSA is watching everything I do. Because, I can tell you directly, software developers are incompetent, and creating even a small program that does something useful takes a long time.

I don’t know how the NSA gets data from the various companies (Google, Facebook et. al.), but I am sure it’s not through some direct feed. The amount of data would be overwhelming and the gov’t goons wouldn’t know how to process it anyway. It is all Facebook and Google can do to process their own data, knowing the algorithms and data structures and paying thousands of skilled people at their company to make sense of it. Third-party people outside the company wouldn’t stand a chance of processing even a millionth of it.

Instead, it must be as others have surmised: these big tech companies are told by the gov’t to give them X records/metadata and then they fork it over in a digestible lump. Disturbing? Yes. Real-time, direct access to your emails–as you type them!–not so much.

Now, what is still scary is something Snowden mentioned: your email or phone call metadata triggers an alert: you used some keywords or called a number that at one time was questionable in some way. Now there is “reasonable cause”–perhaps–to begin tracking your communications more closely. The gov’t doesn’t have the chops to intensely scrutinize 400 million people, but five or ten thousand? Sure. And if you get on that list, whether because the IRS detected the word “tea party” or “pro-life” in your email or because you called a wrong number that happened to be a bad dude of some kind, now you are being watched closely, and perhaps that information will be useful against you one day.

It’s clear that what began under Bush has metastasized under Obama. In this regard, he is in fact worse than Bush, as difficult as that fact is for his supporters to admit. He promised that he wouldn’t spy on Americans, and now that we know he has been, he stands up there and blandly defends his hypocrisy with the usual rhetorical garbage that his opponents saw through six years ago. Obama is not principled: whether on pro-life, or on the Constitution, or on war.

Make no mistake though: as much as I think Obama’s actions have been and are awful, if a Republican president is elected next, unless we the people loudly oppose these intrusions by the gov’t, a Republican will take the baton from Obama and run with it. All of them think that they will only use this power for good, but like the One Ring, it corrupts anyone. Gandalf knew that and refused the Ring. Obama did not, nor will the next Republican president, unless we stand up against this today.

For now, take hope in software developer incompetence, and security through obscurity. There are hundreds of millions of Americans. Shuffle in a single-file along with us other drones and you *probably* won’t be singled out for further “observation.”

As a postscript, I interviewed in college with the CIA and I think with the NSA. I almost went to work for them. Glad that I didn’t, now.

All Hands “Off” the Deck?

"Yup, its tar alright"

I barely have time to keep up with the news, even big news like the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but I read Sheila’s account here and wanted to make a few observations.

From the beginning of the accident, I only recall hearing “this is BP’s problem” from the government. And that may be where the primary responsibility lies, but the best course of action would seem to me to have been: “All hands on deck! Call Exxon, Shell, Texaco, etc. and get their best people on this to work with BP, to bring their ships and gear and minds to bear to try to stop this leak.” The government could have coordinated that effort.

I picture ten possible solutions being worked out in parallel and then each one deployed to be tried in rapid succession if the previous ones fail. Instead it seemed to take forever for the first things to be tried (concrete box etc.) and when those failed it took longer for the current (final?) solution to be implemented. (Update 5/30/09: BP announced that this most recent solution has failed.)

Katie and I recently visited Corpus Christi: what is to happen to all of those economies and people’s livelihoods that depend upon the ocean and its life? Will people still want to buy “fresh Gulf shrimp” after this? Will there be any Gulf shrimp after this?

Everyone loses, and while accidents, even terrible ones, are not completely preventable, the “cover your butt” mentality that seems to pervade our politicians, even the President, is disturbing.

Anyone have more insight into this debacle?