The health insurance market websites may be crashing under the weight of people trying to log in, but plenty of uninsured Americans aren’t eager to try out Obamacare, no matter how often the federal government says ‘Try it, you’ll like it’.
They say even if they do eventually sign up, it will be reluctantly.
“I don’t think that the government should be involved in health care or health insurance,” says Greg Collett, a 41-year-old software developer in Caldwell, Idaho, who would rather pay the fine for now -- $95 the first year -- than signup.
“I calculated it out and it is cheaper for me for the next four years to pay the fine rather than get coverage,” Collett said. “At some point where it would make financial sense to pay for insurance rather than pay fines, I will make the decision from a financial standpoint.”
The Obama administration rolled out one of the biggest elements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act this week – the online health insurance exchanges. The marketplaces provide a way for people who do not have health insurance to buy it from commercial providers, and often with a generous government subsidy.
The members of Congress who crafted the law wanted to get coverage for the 15 percent of Americans who do not have health insurance, and who often neglect their health because of it. They can end up in emergency rooms or bankrupted by medical bills.
Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the law in 2009, and Republicans in Congress have been fighting steadily to repeal it or at least cripple it. The fight came to a head this week when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to pass legislation to continue funding the federal government unless Democrats agreed to concessions. Now the government’s closed down.
Polls show clearly that people are confused and worried by the issue. A majority say they don’t really understand what the law is supposed to do.
Collett counts himself among the 29 percent of people who said in an NBCNews/Kaiser poll they are angry about the health reform law. “The issue for me is that it is not the proper role of government,” he said.
Collett, who is married and has 10 children, says the kids are covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance plan for people with low income and children who are not covered.
But it’s “absolutely not okay,” that they are, Collett says quickly. “There are a lot of people out there that’ll cry foul."
Collett, whose children are home-schooled, likens taking Medicaid to sending children to public school. He also does not approve of government-funded public schools. “The government is taking your money. They are spending it on things they shouldn’t be,” he says. “Trying to get whatever you can back -- I have nothing against that. You have to at some point try and get your tax dollars back.”
John, 61, who lives in Butte, Montana and declined to give his last name or occupation, is uninsured, but doesn't believe having health insurance at all is a good idea because it drives up prices. “The entrance of a third part payer really has been the cause of health care being out of price," he says.
“If you are not in a direct transaction with the person using the service, then all kinds of things get whacko,” John said in a telephone interview.
Although he's careful to keep himself in good health, he understands he's taking a big risk.
“I would benefit from a socialized healthcare situation right now. But that’s not to say that the socialized method is a good idea,” he said. And he doesn’t gamble with his two sons. One, in college, is covered through the school plan, while his high-school-aged son is covered by his mother’s health insurance that she gets through her employer.
He might eventually sign up for health insurance on an exchange, or Medicare when he gets old enough. “I am not a martyr. I’ll have to deal with it and maybe I’ll be forced to get on the bandwagon and say fine,” he said. “But we have not addressed the problem. I honestly believe that socialized medicine will break this country,” he adds, referring to the bitter debates over Medicare in the 1960s.
Mark, a 51-year-old contractor in Colorado, recently worked through the pain of a broken rib because he lacks health insurance. He’ll be signing up, even though his truck carries a bumper sticker that spells out Obama’s name as “One big-ass mistake, America”.
“Obamacare, here we come,” said Mark, who also declined to give his full name.