As I prepared for yesterday's debate with Andrew Kirch and Miah Akston, I focused on the insurance exchanges and possible rates of premiums under Obamacare, presently scheduled to take effect day after tomorrow. The reasons for the focus were selfish, to a large degree. I have a pre-existing condition, about which I have made no secrets. I blogged a series about multiple sclerosis and the Mini-Marathon last year with a reprise this year. Rates for health insurance will fall. With multiple plans available, there will be more competition between insurance companies. Perhaps that is irony under what is touted as a government-run system, but so it goes.
I respect both Andrew and Miah. We have had lively exchanges in the past, most recently, prior to yesterday, on Gary Snyder's "Political Roundtable" two days before. The thing about Obamacare police threw me. I should have been prepared. In high school and college debate, teams ran what were called "squirrel" cases. In debate, teams had to quote evidence, back then quotes usually printed on 4" x 6" cards. We carried 4" x 6" file drawers in suitcases. My system was color-coded. One never knew when one would encounter a squirrel case. The most troublesome was the topic"Resolved: the Federal government should control the use of land in the United States." Under that topic, a team would, for its affirmative case, say (for example) the makings of asbestos come from the land, asbestos causes harms to people, and by banning use of asbestos the affirmative controls the use of land, therefore meets the harm or accrues the advantage of implementation of the affirmative plan. The land use topic was rife with squirrels. Different topics gave birth to different varieties of squirrels. If the negative did not have "cards," i.e. evidence, on a particular case, that was bad. Of course, the reason the topic was adopted by the national debate committee was to address a matter of public concern. Urban land use---in the mid-1970s, and now still---hardly was planned. Castleton is an example of development gone wild. So is the stretch of U.S. 40 from I-465 to just west of Plainfield. Most debaters sought wins rather intelligent discussion of a current problem that faced society.
The thing about Obamacare police hit me a like a squirrel linebacker who blindsides a metaphorical debate quarterback. A quick Google(r) search of "Obamacare police" brings up a bunch of hits, mostly right-wing sites where pieces, written by right-wing pundits, warn of a police state some of the elements of which are Obamacare police.
There are a couple of areas in which these police are to be deployed.
One is to monitor pregnant women and families with newborns. This alarmed me. I have handled a lot of appeals that involve the Department of Child Services and actions brought against parents under Children in Need of Services (ChINS) or the subsequent Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). I have read a lot of transcripts. No doubt there are sincere DCS Family Case managers (FCM) out there. I would not want DCS in our house. There is more of a chance that one will draw Barney Fife than Andy Taylor, in the Mayberry of that world.
When Miah and Andrew---one on either side of me and armed with semiautomatic weapons; I was not intimidated (nor was that their intent as they go everywhere so armed)---raised the specters of Obamacare police in this context, I was alarmed. Then I read the passage of the law to which, I now infer, they referred. The plan is for at-risk homes to receive parenting education and---okay, I know it is in the statute, but hey, it is in the statute---participation in the program is, for the parent, VOLUNTARY. The program already exists in 40 states. ("Inspection Deception," Factcheck.org). If someone smokes tobacco, and that person wants to receive parenting lessons, a good idea would be to put away the ashtrays before the parenting coach comes over. Also, it never is a good idea to leave a bong out if a government official comes by for a visit (unless one is in Washington state or Colorado).There are no "forced" inspections.
As for concerns expressed about 10,000 IRS agents having been recruited to enforce ACA, that is not what Miah and Andrew made it seem. Of course the IRS will check certain information---just not medical. The IRS will check to see if people have health insurance as required under Obamacare. That makes sense, as some of the ramifications of ACA involve payment of a penalty, based on one's income, if one does not have health insurance. (Non Profit Quarterly, 9/29/13, "The Affordable Care Act Meets IRS and HHS in Climate of Scandal.") While I am on the topic of the IRS and the ACA, Andrew read off a list of tax consequences of the ACA---creation of taxes and the raising of the floor for deduction of health care expenses from 7.5 to 10 percent of adjusted gross income. On this latter point I pointed out that a person who is insured will not have to worry about writing off expenses, Let me state the matter a little differently. If a medical expenses is deductible, it means just that---it is not a tax credit. If someone has $4000 in health expenses, the in-pocket benefit, to that person of a deduction for that amount, would be $600 or thereabouts depending upon the person's tax rate. If the person has health insurance, depending upon the person's co-pay or analogous sum, the person might not pay out anything or, perhaps, $2500. In the latter instance, the person would have $1500 in-pocket. If the co-pay or deductible of the person's plan is greater, so, too, would the amount in-pocket. Andrew expressed concern that poor people, particularly, would be hit hard by this change in tax law. However, most/nearly all/all poor people do not qualify to itemize on their tax returns. the entire
I should have realized, as we squared up in that famous undisclosed location yesterday, I would be hit from two sides by arguments I had not anticipated. As the blind teacher in "Kung Fu" said in one episode "Kung Fu," circa 1971, "Always expect the unexpected." I had some peanuts to feed our squirrels in the back yard. Usually they come up on the deck and we feed them. They stayed away yesterday during the Show. They must have thought Andrew and Miah already were in line ahead of them. I have suggested a re-match with Miah and Andrew on this same topic. Their responses have been favorable. I look forward to another debate.