Archive for June 29th, 2012

Writing and the ACA

I think we all saw the news yesterday. Those who were watching Fox News and CNN even got to see several iterations of the news. In a complicated decision, the US Supreme Court rejected the individual mandate under the commerce clause but upheld it under Congressional powers of taxation. I’m not here to argue about whether the bill ultimately is or isn’t constitutional. I’m not a constitutional scholar. I’m only going to share a few things in an attempt to make the ACA a relevant topic on what is primarily a blog about writing.

First was a writer who announced he would be able to go to writing full-time under the ACA provisions that go into effect in 2014, especially the provision forbidding health plans for discriminating against applicants with pre-existing conditions. Second was Steampunk artist Kyle Cassidy predicting that “artists will leave crappy corporate jobs they held just to have insurance for art jobs that pay less.”

Now today on Art Info there’s an article titled How Artists Will Be Affected by the Supreme Court’s Decision to Uphold Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which goes into more details about…well, how artists will etc etc etc. While the site largely focuses on the various graphic arts, it’s important to remember that all people who create for a living will have similar effects. Whether a painter, sculptor, free-lancer, or author, we’re all in a position where our creative endeavors result in an unpredictable income stream for all but a very fortunate minority. The probably with this spotty stream is that insurance is, in a word, expensive.

One of the reasons that healthcare is prohibitively expensive for artists and other self-employed people is that they are not part of a larger network, which allows insurance companies to better spread out risk and costs. Even small companies sometimes don’t qualify for group plans. Some 52 percent of artists described themselves as either completely uninsured or inadequately insured in the face of high premiums, high deductibles, and annual limits on care.

Under the ACA, states will set up group exchanges by 2014, which will organize the insurance market and allow individuals and small businesses to band together to form groups, just like if they were part of a large corporation. The exchanges will not be able to consider pre-existing conditions when creating groups — currently one of the biggest reasons why individuals or small businesses have a hard time getting affordable insurance.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I can’t promise that the ACA is going to work entirely as expected. Or that it will be enacted at all. A significant groundswell of anti-ACA emotion could give Romney the White House and enough of a GOP presence in the House and Senate to overturn the bill. It’s going to be a long and weird two years until the majority of the ACA takes hold, and probably a few years after that until we will know how it works in reality versus in theory.

However, I support artists. I support creators. Not just because I am one, but because this world would be a damn boring place without things being created. So I support a safety net for those individuals who dare to dream and want to try creating full-time. Hell, I hope to join them some day. So I hope that Cassidy, Art Info, and the writer planning on going full-time in 2014 are well founded in their optimism, that this will provide a way for more people to be able to create without worrying about what will happen if they get sick.

When asked in 1993 about whether it was easier to be a writer in Canada or America, science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer answered:

I think the biggest advantage a writer has in Canada is free government-sponsored health care…I was able to become a full-time writer because I didn’t need a job in order to get health insurance. Canada — and just about every other industrialized country — considers health care a basic human right, but in the States so many people who might otherwise take the plunge and become full-time writers have to stay shackled to a nine-to-five job so that they won’t be financially ruined should they be in an accident or get ill.

The ACA isn’t full Canadian medical care. But it is a step towards allowing those who want to be full-time creators to do so. Taking aside all the politics about the ACA, whether it’s Obamacare or Romneycare or whatever othercare you care to call it, I applaud a society that better supports those who create for the betterment of that society.

If that’s political, it’s political. It’s also how I feel.


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