By Lambert Strether of Corrente
And in a genius PR move, the White House describes Obama’s act of successful shopping avoidance as “symbolic.” As indeed it is, although not in the way the White House thinks, or could be said to think. WaPo has the details:
President Obama has enrolled in the federal health-care insurance exchanges, selecting a bronze-tiered insurance plan on the D.C. marketplace, the White House announced Monday.
The Bronze? The metal for losers who can barely scrape together the meagre coin to avoid being forced onto Medicaid? WTF?
The president’s health care will continue to be provided by the military, according to a statement distributed to reporters from a White House official who demanded anonymity.
My Canadian friends tell me that in Canada — they have a single payer plan up there that covers everybody; they call it Medicare — medical services that are covered by Medicare cannot be covered privately (leaving profit-mongers to sell cosmetic surgery, for example, to the wealthy, and a very fine thing that is, too). That way, the Canadian Prime Minister and the lowliest prole all have the same incentive to make Medicare work well; they all have the same skin in the game; their own.
Obama’s premium will be less than $400 a month, but it only covers himself, not his wife, Michelle, nor their daughters, Malia and Sasha, according to a White House official.
But Obama, as you see, has no skin in the game at all; not himself, and not his family. Yet oddly, or not, Obama places great emphasis on others having skin in the game. (Troll prophylactic: Before anybody raises the argument that Obama couldn’t legally go on the Federal Exchange, or wasn’t eligible for the exchange because of income, remember that Obama’s the same guy who whacked a U.S. citizen with a drone strike without due process. Let’s also remember that ObamaCare is a hot mess of triaged requirements, slipped statutory deadlines, abandoned mandates, and rewritten regulations that reinterpret the law so loosey-goose-ily that the law might as well have been a ginormous stack of “This page intentionally left blank”s. In short, if Obama had wanted to put himself and his family on his wonderful Exchanges, like the rest of us, he could have. Let’s not kid ourselves here.*)
Although Obama was involved in selecting a plan, he didn’t sign up himself. The president’s staff did that for him, going in person to the D.C. exchange over the weekend, the White House official said.**
Ha ha. How I wish I had staff! And if the DC Exchange was really crash-proof, do you really imagine that the White House PR operation would have passed up the chance to make a YouTube of “tech savvy” Obama signing up on his own laptop from the Oval Office? And then propagating the YouTube to the “young invincibles”? No way. No, instead the White House operation has the staff go over the weekend, and then releases the news of our glorious leader’s enrollment on Monday of Christmas week, which is about the same as burying it at 5:00 on Friday.
But let us pass on from the pleasant duty of calling bullshit on Obama’s imperial prerogatives, which let him slide out from under the shopping experience he’s mandated for the rest of us — at least, those of us without staff — because there’s a larger point that I’d like to approach by way of example. Let us pass on, that is, from the airing of the grievances to the feats of strength. Here’s a report from the field (hat tip, BC) of one person trying to work the Federal Exchange in Missouri with the help of a Navigator
Success with HealthCare.gov takes patience, persistence
Aaron Swaney, the certified application counselor [Navigator] based out of the Family Health Center, first helped [Jeannie Wyble] make an account on the marketplace on Nov. 15. By the second of week of December, her account still says “in progress.” … They made another appointment to see each other the next day, hoping the sixth time would be the charm.
Shop ’til you drop! And now the key point:
Jeremy Milarsky, who, like Swaney, has been certified to help consumers enroll on HealthCare.gov, sums up the situation:
“This is a system that lends itself very well to people who are organized and follow up. If you’re the kind of person who just sits back and expect everything to fall into place [as, for example, with Canadian-style single payer Medicare for all] you’re more likely to run into problems.”
In other words, ObamaCare is optimized for shoppers; that’s really what what “patience, persistence” headline means when you think in systemic, as opposed to characterological, terms. In fact, given that statistically at least, lives are at stake, we might consider the ObamaCare marketplace as a Darwinian environment where those who do not display adaptability to the shopping environment — I hate shopping, since it’s a massive time sink — are more likely not to get the health care they need, and hence more likely to get sick, and hence more likely to die; some people call that a “nudge,” but I’d call it more like shooting the wounded.
Because — and this is the most important point — the neoliberal “market solution” is always about that truly transcendent human endeavor — shopping — isn’t it? Supposing for the moment that we consider the non-elite human, of course. As Corey Robin wrote (quoted by Yves):
In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives.
As did Jeannie Wyble, thereby giving productive employment, except not, to Aaron Swaney.
That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.
And so do Preznits!
The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts—one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government)—and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not.
If ObamaCare is permitted to entrench itself, the next step will be to have a “Retirement Marketplace,” with Social Security as the “public option,” so that the rentiers can run the 401(k) scam a second time for more fees, because shopping.*** Does anybody really believe that won’t happen?
In real (or at least our preferred) life, we do have other, better things to do. We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more. Most days, we don’t have time to do any of that. We’re working way too many hours for too little pay, and in the remaining few hours (minutes) we have, after the kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done, we have to haggle with insurance companies about doctor’s bills, deal with school officials needing forms signed, and more.
That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.
What’s so astounding about Romney’s proposal [which became Obama’s]—and the neoliberal worldview more generally—is that it would just add to this immense, and incredibly shitty, hassle of everyday life. One more account to keep track of, one more bell to answer. Why would anyone want to live like that? I sure as hell don’t know, but I think that’s the goal of the neoliberals: not just so that we’re more responsible with our money, but also so that we’re more consumed by it: so that we don’t have time for anything else. Especially anything, like politics, that would upset the social order as it is.
Indeed. A social order where the rich have staff to do their shopping for them, Presidents slide out from under the mandate to shop that they impose on others, and the rest of us… Well, here’s what we’re expected to do:
The key point to remember in all discussions of ObamaCare is that neither it, nor indeed the entire private health insurance “industry,” should exist. They are rent-seeking parasites, economic tapeworms. One does not improve a tapeworm; one removes it.
We’re mandated to keep that tapeworm fat, happy, and well-fed. By shopping for a defective product with time we have to steal from what we’d really rather be doing than shopping for insurance, and that means almost anything. The Canadians don’t have to crap around with any of this. Why should we?
Bush famously said “I encourage you all to go shopping more.” Leave it to Obama, not to “encourage,” but force us to shop!
NOTE * “If I elected, my family and I will purchase health insurance on the exchanges together” would be a great campaign promise for a populist campaign, especially when followed by “until such time as we pass Medicare for All, which I expect to do in my first term.” Bernie? Brian? No, not you, Elizabeth.
NOTE ** There’s also the argument that Obama would have had difficulty signing up because of Experian’s identity validation software might not have been able to handle his special case. Really? So have Obama get on the phone with support, like the rest of us. Symbolism, ya know. Symbolism. And don’t tell me he doesn’t have time; he’s on his way to a vacation in Hawaii!
NOTE *** We might consider making the experiment of mentally replacing “because free markets” or “because liberty,” when encountered, with “because shopping.” Could be interesting!
NOTE The Republican reaction is priceless:
“I’m glad he did it,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in an interview Monday. “I’m not going to take a cheap shot at him for signing up.”…. [It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!] Chaffetz added: “He’s the president of the United States. His health care is a little different than the rest of us.”
Not in Canada!