Editorial: The government did it, so it's not a big deal
9/15/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Rich Thurlow
If there was ever a textbook example of why America doesn't need the government to take over health care, it was printed plain as day on Page 7 in the Sept. 10 Kingman Daily Miner.
The wire story is about a woman, Bev Veals, undergoing chemotherapy this summer. She is notified that her health plan is shutting down and the substitute insurance she was offered wanted her to pay $3,125 on top of premiums.
Give the AP credit for reporting that this "sounds like one of those insurance horror stories President Barack Obama told to sell his health overhaul to Congress, but Veals wasn't in the clutches of a profit-driven company."
No, the villain here is the Affordable Care Act - better known as Obamacare.
Veals' "coverage" was part of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Insurance companies were vilified while Obamacare was being sold to a skeptical public, chastised because they refused to write policies and provide coverage to people already suffering from an illness. But doing so turns the definition of "insurance" upside-down. It's like trying to buy car insurance after you've totaled the family Corvair.
The problem for Veals and others in the program is the funding for the Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Plan was capped at $5 billion.
If Veals and other victims of this fraud were paying customers of a reputable health insurance company, her plight and the plight of others would be headline news all over the country. Insurance executives would be called before Congress, the threat of felony charges would hang over their heads, and hefty fines would be levied and paid.
Instead, Veals and others are merely victims of yet another government miscalculation. The story was a one and done, no one on the government payroll lost their job, no one was even chastised.
This government has lied about Benghazi (let's blame it on a video!), had the IRS target conservative groups, operates domestic surveillance programs with the NSA, and has a political hack as the attorney general (remember Marc Rich?). Yet the public dozes on, with a pulse barely detected when our bumbling president almost pulls the trigger on Syria for no real reason.
What has the government done that would make you want to entrust your health to it? These guys can't even balance a checkbook, for crying out loud.
Somewhere down the road, when it takes six months to get approval for an MRI ("yeah, that tumor's pretty big now - too bad you didn't get this MRI a couple of months ago") or three months for a pacemaker (the current norm in some cases for the VA), well, by then it just might be too late to wake up and get back what we had.
Is it too late to talk about John Michrina?
If you've forgotten the name it's not entirely your fault. Michrina was Kingman's new city manager and he and members of the City Council were among the happiest people in the world - until contract negotiations fizzled a few weeks back.
Michrina wanted something to fall back on if he suddenly found himself without a job. Elected officials in smaller municipalities, not as insulated from the public at large than elected officials from the big city, are less inclined to offer months and months of pay to someone no longer on the job. That's especially true if such a benefit was accorded to a previous city manager who seemed to be encouraging his own dismissal prior to being canned.
But that's only part of the history that needs to be recalled on this topic. It is true that a former city manager was fired, but it's also true he had to work exceptionally hard to make that happen, at least from this perspective.
Say it this way: There are no guarantees, but this city's government, even in the most unsettled times (and even when much of the unsettling is caused by the city manager) does not have a recent history of pulling the trigger on at-will employees.
Kingman and John Michrina may have been a perfect match, one good for both the city and the new manager for many years. In this case, though, the city made the right choice by not offering thousands and thousands of dollars as a parting gift in a relationship that soured. It's refreshing that the city didn't buy into that severance package line that "everyone else does it."
By not doing it, maybe Kingman is that dash of sanity that has been missing in contract negotiations between Arizona municipalities and managers.
It's too bad Mr. Michrina didn't have confidence in his own ability to ride out periodic storms. If he was a good as advertised, Kingman's City Council has the patience that would have made this a good relationship for everyone.