Bill Maher may be having second thoughts about his vocal support for Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.
Prefacing the discussion on Friday evening’s installment of Real Time with Bill Maher, he admitted that like most liberals, he’s been boasting about how great the law has been working out.
In revealing his disillusionment with the law’s implementation as it applies to the average person, however, Maher pointed the finger at “shark-like” insurance companies — rather than complicated, one-size-fits-all government regulations — for making medical treatment under Obamacare more expensive and too confusing.
The Real Time host was alluding to an unflattering article about the Affordable Care Act called “Insured, but Not Covered,” as recently published in the New York Times, a publication that otherwise lines up behind the Obama administration on most issues.
The Times story pointed out that Obamacare “has ushered in an era of complex new health insurance products featuring legions of out-of-pocket coinsurance fees, high deductibles and narrow provider networks.”
Against this backdrop, the article also noted that many consumers find themselves paying medical bills on their own rather than through their insurance and/or discovering that their doctors can enter or exit approved networks abruptly. “For still others, the new fees are so confusing and unsupportable that they just avoid seeing doctors.”
In a separate but related issue, those consumers who have qualified for subsidized coverage on a government healthcare exchange might also be hearing from the tax man if, even in good faith, they miscalculated their adjusted gross income, especially for those whose income fluctuates from month to month.
Moreover, the constitutionality of the subsidies is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the Obamacare individual mandate on a 5-4 ruling in June 2012, with Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly switching his vote at the 11th hour.
The Times added that because of the polarized, politicized nature of the Obamacare debate, it is viewed as either a success or a failure, depending upon the ideology lens involved, and “even political supporters seem reluctant to acknowledge that it has some flaws.” Across the ideological spectrum, however, many observers agree that there was too much logrolling among Big Government, Big Insurance, and Big Pharma (aka crony capitalism or corporatism) when Obamacare was crafted by “architects” such as Jonathan Gruber and others.
As you may recall, after a lot of behind-the-scenes arm twisting (which included such incentives as the “cornhusker kickback” and the “Louisiana purchase“), Obamacare passed the U.S. Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009, and the U.S. House on March 21, 2010, on a straight party line vote when both chambers were controlled by Democrats. It officially became the law of the land a few days later through a fast-tracked, parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation. Under Article 1, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, all bills for raising government revenue are supposed to originate in the House rather than the Senate, however. No Republican in Congress voted for Obamacare. Thirty of the 60 Senate Democrats who voted for Obamacare are no longer in office as the new Congressional term began last month with both chambers under GOP control.
In revisiting his support for Obamacare, Maher noted while the healthcare law has been a significant upgrade for those consumers with preexisting conditions, other issues have emerged, whether intended or unintended.
“But the New York Times… did an article that basically said, you know, when Obama said if you like your plan nothing will change — well, everything has changed. 46 percent of people are having trouble paying health care costs now, up 10 percent from a year ago because the deductibles went the up, the co-pays went up. They can’t see the doctor they used to see because he’s in a different network. They go to get questions answered and they’re talking to somebody reading a script in the Philippines. It’s like your prostate cancer is being handled by Comcast now.”
Continued Maher about the shortcomings of Obamacare.
“The most frightening thing in this article is when somebody said ‘it’s so confusing, I’ve just stopped seeing a doctor,’ and that’s going on a lot, apparently. People are not going [to the doctor] because it’s more expensive, too confusing, and I think this was intentional. I think the insurance companies wanted this to happen because that’s how they make money.”
While leveling criticism at Obamacare, Bill Maher reaffirmed his support for a single-payer healthcare system, which is a completely government-run program, such as currently in effect in countries like the U.K. and Canada, to take the profit motive out of sickness and death as he deemed it.
All the political parties in Britain acknowledge that major problems exist in the U.K. National Health Service, however, drawbacks which are regularly covered in the British press. Parenthetically, the Academy Award-winning comedy drama The Barbarian Invasions (Best Foreign Language film 2004) provides a glimpse of what the Canadian system is like.
Apart from his apparent about-face on Obamacare, while Bill Maher has made a nice living in part from portraying Republicans and conservatives as anti-science hillbillies, he has a history of vaccine skepticism, although he now denies that he was ever an anti-vaxxer.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment]