Compiled by MCJ Staff
The Affordable Care Act sign-up deadline is fast approaching. The last day to sign-up is March 31, 2014. While there were many initial challenges with applying for healthcare online, the kinks have been removed and it’s now much easier to access the variety of plans the healthcare program offers to allow applicants to get the best program at an affordable price.
One of the main goals of the ACA is signing-up young people. Many 20-somethings and 30 year olds say they have been able to get full coverage at very good prices, some of which are in the $70 per month range. Now that’s a deal! As a matter of fact, it may even be cheaper for young people to go it alone than to remain on their parent’s policy. In speaking with people in the community, new things are being shared. Those we talked to blame the still somewhat low sign-up numbers in the community on the high levels of unemployment and underemployment in our community.
New jobs for our people simply have not been in abundance and the long-term unemployed have not been able to find work. After months and months of responding to the unemployment requirements of documenting efforts to find work, many simply stopped trying. And even after trying again and again, the only jobs available pay only minimum wage. Individuals with minimum wage jobs aren’t inspired to incur any new expenses, thus forcing many of these individuals to forgo signing up for healthcare, opting instead to gamble with avoiding any major illnesses or injuries that require a doctor’s care and hospitalization.
Most residents would like to support the Affordable Care Act because they understand the politics involved in getting the health legislation passed and the continued hammering it and President Obama have taken and will continue to take all the way up to the November mid-term elections that will be a launch pad for the 2016 Presidential elections. However, far too many residents are literally grappling from day to day. Congresses unemployment extension act took away unemployment stipends for millions last January.
Food stamps programs have been drastically reduced, again tightening the day-to-day funds available for food and sustenance. Seniors who typically retired at 65 years of age are now working the low-wage jobs that used to go to teenagers and college students, and they’re working them longer, eliminating the voids that usually occurred for at least a decade.
The historically underemployed have had nowhere to go. One could begin to look at this major group as unresponsive and lethargic. But, in truth, far too many have tried unsuccessfully to find a job. In order for their to be a hand-up, there has to be a hand. Jobs have shrunk, while the gap between the employed and un-employed/underemployed has grown wider.
A recent article by the Associated Press titled, “Low-Wage Workers Struggle to Find Middle-Pay Jobs”, points up the dilemma of Richard Wilson, 27, who awakens early, goes to work daily, yet cannot move up the proverbial ladder this nation has espoused as the American way to success.
“For years, many Americans followed a simple career path,” the Associated Press article reads. “Land any entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Leave eventually for a better paying job.” “Not so much anymore,” the AP article continues. “Since the Great Recession began in 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.
“Research shows,” the article continues, “occupations that once helped elevate people from the minimum wage into the middle class disappeared during the past three recessions since 1991.” The article states further: “Last year, 17.4 million Americans between ages 25 and 64 earned less than $ 10.10 an hour, the minimum wage proposed by President Barack Obama ( the current federal minimum is $ 7.25). That’s equal to an income of nearly $19,900 for a full-time employee, less than half the median pay of a U.S. worker.” The report went on to disclose that over 1.9 million office and administrative support jobs (which included 714,370 executive secretaries with annual incomes averaging $50,000 per year, and 252,240 fewer bookkeepers who had average incomes of $36,640 salaries”) were permanently lost during the Great Recession.
It is imperative we understand the depths of the issues associated with unemployment/underemployment, abject poverty, access to health care, and upward mobility and how they are unavoidably intertwined. And it is equally important to understand why it is important to be involved. Putting our heads in the sand is not the answer. Examine all options and understand the importance of being a part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem.
Ignorance is not bliss, and just because it is difficult does not give one the right to become disheartened and apathetic! It is important our community is engaged in the process, whether that process is finding employment or healthcare. It is important we know what our participation in this historic initiative means to our community’s health, If you need healthcare coverage, take a few minutes and log onto the ACA healthcare site. Go to Healthcare.gov/marketplace.
While the Affordable Care Act has been and continues to be criticized, most Americans do not want it repelled. It is important to know the initiative has already helped millions of families by eliminating the penalty for pre-existent illnesses and diseases. As an asthmatic, that harsh penalty always affected our family. And God forbid, your child is born with cerebral palsy or a degenerative heart disease, sickle cell or the many other maladies that used to put families into lifetime poverty.
And the ACA has enhanced the lives for millions of seniors whose health-quotients increase with age. Do we throw away our seniors or cherish them as they do in most cultures? In order for the ACA to work, more young people must sign up so there is age-balance. Last but not least, the Social Security Act was signed in 1935 after the Great Depression of 1932. It took over three decades before there was full participation in the program.
Social Security evolved! The Affordable Care Act will also evolve as well, but we must play our part in the evolution. Act today. Your participation is important for your health, your security, and that of your family.