WASHINGTON—With the Affordable Care Act now making it possible for a greater number of Americans to purchase medical coverage, the nation looked back this week and fondly recalled a simpler time when its health care system was broken beyond any hope of repair.
Describing a more innocent period in the country’s history—before opponents of the act temporarily shut down the government, and before the disastrous rollout of the new insurance exchanges led to widespread public exasperation—citizens shared with reporters their warm memories of what they called a bygone golden era.
“Back then, if you couldn’t afford health insurance and got really sick, you went bankrupt, plain and simple,” said Dominique Otis, a Modesto, CA mother of three. “They didn’t have this whole mess of lower-cost options, or all these subsidies you might or might not qualify for based on your income. People didn’t have to deal with any of those headaches. They just went ahead and died of preventable causes.”
“Those were the good old days, ya know?” she added with a sigh.
According to nostalgic sources, there was a time when Americans who lost their jobs and the benefits that came with them simply went without insurance, and that was that. During this halcyon age there was reportedly no way anyone who was out of work could afford health care, and if people had a serious preexisting condition, they knew for certain they would never again qualify for decent coverage.
Harkening back to that less complicated past, citizens noted, for example, how parents who had no way to pay for their newborn baby’s much-needed surgery never even bothered getting their hopes up, but simply accepted that their child would never have a first birthday party.
As they spoke with reporters, many Americans reminisced about the comfort they once took in the predictable dysfunction of this status quo.
“When I had esophageal cancer and needed $180,000 worth of treatments not covered by my health plan, I knew immediately I’d lose my house,” said 58-year-old Tobias Czwerda of Braintree, MA, who smiled as he flipped through snapshots of the Christmas he and his family spent in a homeless shelter. “Yes, sir, things were simpler then. You knew in advance that no matter how much you argued with your insurance company, in the end it would always come down to the same two options: pay or die.”
“Call me old-fashioned, but there was something reassuring in that,” he added.
In a Gallup poll conducted this month, 72 percent of respondents agreed that even though the health care system had consistently screwed them over in the old days, at least they had known exactly where they stood. In addition, 65 percent said that while the most expensive illnesses were effectively a death sentence back then, there had been a certain peace of mind in knowing that if you ever got that sick, you would soon be gone and not have to worry about the hospital bills.
Furthermore, 89 percent of Americans confirmed they had taken some small solace in the fact that if they needed money for a life-saving operation, they could always tape a photocopied image of themselves to a collection jar, place it in a local supermarket checkout line, and hope for the best.
“Remember when you couldn’t afford to see a doctor and so you just waited and waited and waited until you absolutely couldn’t wait any longer, and then you went to the emergency room, where they did too little too late and charged you tens of thousands of dollars for it?” Waukesha, WI resident Keith Donaldson said. “I guess those days are gone forever.”
“Except for the tens of millions of Americans who will remain uninsured even under Obamacare, of course,” he continued. “They’re still fucked.”