In the days leading up to the Oct. 1 launch of the health-care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), MSNBC producer Stefanie Cargill and I went to North Carolina to prove a truism about the law known popularly as Obamacare. Love it or hate it, no one with whom we spoke was clear on what the law does or how it would work.
Pastor Ray Hardee told me that he thinks universal health care is “a great idea.” “I’m a Christ follower. I’m a person of faith. . . . I believe it’s our duty to take care of the least of his people that can’t take care of themselves and their health needs,” said Hardee as we talked at Caravan Coffee and Dessert Bar on Main Street in Belmont, N.C. “I think so often what has happened is that the church has failed to do what the church is supposed to do, therefore the government has had to take over and come up with some type of program which is not nearly as efficient as if it was run by a local community.” That concern for efficiency makes Hardee believe that Obamacare will “be a nightmare for everybody to try to administer.”
I should point out that the ACA is not a government takeover of health care. As of today, consumers can begin the enrollment process to buy health insurance from private companies through exchanges set up by their states or the federal government.
“I don’t really understand what’s going to happen with the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare,” yoga instructor Kristen Comstock, a supporter of the law, told me at the coffee shop. “I don’t’ know what will really change. It seems like it’s really complex legislation, but I think we should try it. I think we should just see what happens.”
Talking more about the law’s complexity, Comstock said, “I think that we’ve just created a lot of confusing options for people already, and we’re adding a layer of confusion with the Obamacare legislation.” Still, she’s looking on the bright side. “Hopefully it’s going to provide something that’s been missing for people,” she said. “But I think the proof is in the pudding, so that’s why I say they should just stop this nonsense about funding it and let it play out and see what happens.”
Seeing what happens is not what Howard Adams wants. “It probably started out to be a worthwhile cause, but it’s probably going to end up like socialized medicine like in Europe and Canada,” said the manager of the Belmont General Store where the ice cream counter is popular with the after-school crowd. “I’m convinced of it. It’s gonna be socialized medicine.”
Adams is also convinced that Congress, particularly Democrats, voted for the Affordable Care Act without reading the bill. “The Democrats, they just want to pass it without reading it,” he said. “And they don’t know what’s in there. Unless somebody’s read whatever’s in this thing, you don’t know what you’re getting into.”
When I asked Adams where the impression came from that Congress voted for Obamacare without knowing what was in Obamacare, he said, “Nancy Pelosi said let’s pass it and then we’ll read it.” As I’ve written, that’s not what then-Speaker Pelosi said.
Even though he believes Obamacare should be stopped “until we find out what it’s all about,” Adams, who has diabetes and heart issues, told me that he would take a look at the health care exchanges. Grudgingly, I might add. “I’ll look into it, but I’m not pleased with it,” he said. “I’ll give [it] a fair shot, but I think it’s going to be a bad thing before it’s all said and done.”
One person who isn’t going to bother with Obamacare is 87-year-old George Adams, the inventor of a device for older folks to put their socks on without bending who is no relation to Howard Adams. “I don’t care. I don’t need it,” he told me propped on a stool at the general store’s ice cream counter. Adams said he had heard his friends who gather at the McDonald’s talk about it. Some like the health care law, but most hate it, he said. But Adams, who has Medicare and takes full advantage of his veterans benefits, rendered his final judgment.
“I couldn’t care less,” he said.
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