Interesting that the articles about Obamacare and about the possible closures of the Neighborhood Clinics were on the same page in last week’s issue of The Independent.

As the only employee of a local professional, my benefits are that I love and do well at my job, and actually get praise for the work I do. I am a middle-aged woman, and lack of health insurance is a constant companion.

Not that I am irresponsible or just haven’t bothered, but the price of health insurance is just not in the budget. If I had that kind of extra money hanging around I would have a new non-gas-guzzling car instead of the 20-year-old car that I try to keep running. I make a fairly good income (for Santa Barbara), but it all goes to rent, food, gas, and utilities. New clothes? Haircut? Vacation? Get real.

After reading the Obamacare blurb, I thought I would get online and check Covered California and the so-called affordable health insurance options. My question is: Affordable for whom? Not me, and I’m sure not many others in my category. I have checked insurance in the past with high hopes, and it is no more affordable now than it was two, three, or four years ago. The difference now is that it covers even less.

For anywhere between $275 to $800 and more per month, you have the privilege of having a $5,000 to $8,000 deductible, copays of $40 or $50 or more, and coinsurance fees (what is coinsurance?). Insurance doesn’t kick in until the deductible is paid, and many cover only 50-60% of what is covered.

What kind of get-rich-quick scheme is this? We know what it is – it’s called private insurance companies. Pay a big portion of your monthly income on the off-chance something bad happens. If many of you are like me, to pay that insurance bill every month will be a choice between eating, and/or driving to work, and/or having a phone, and/or having a roof over your head. Yes, there are supposedly subsidies for those just above the poverty line ($15,000.00 per year for a single – who can pay Santa Barbara rent on that?), and some assistance for those making up to $44,000 per year (again, who can pay Santa Barbara rents on that?). What happened to insurance that actually covered doctor visits, medicine, and lab tests, with a $10 or $20 copay?

Are you ready? It will be interesting to see what happens when this goes into effect – how many people will actually be able to purchase insurance, how many just won’t because they can’t. I was an Obama supporter, like most of us, but this healthcare thing has turned into a joke, and the laughing will be at most-of-our expense. And there will still be people going bankrupt due to healthcare bills.

Maybe it will get some real health care reform to happen, like a single payer program that should have been enacted to get rid of the rich-and-getting-richer insurance companies.

In the meantime, those of us who do not work in big companies with all those lovely benefits will have to be content with getting our care at the Neighborhood Clinics, which, thank God, are there and almost affordable. But wait! The Neighborhood Clinics may be closing due to lack of funding! Does anyone realize what that is going to do to Santa Barbara? There will not be any care for most of us that work for a living. There is no back-up for working folk. Medi-Cal is not available to everyone (though that is what should have been implemented with the healthcare law), medically-indigent adult funding (for singles that do not qualify for Medi-cal) is only available to those making $600 per month or less (that leaves out almost every working person). The Immedicenters are an option only if you have cash to pay for it, and anytime I’ve had to go it was in the $200-plus range for a simple visit. The local emergency rooms will be inundated with many more patients that have nowhere else to go, have left health problems to the last minute due to lack of money, and have no money to pay the cost, and this costs much more than an occasional doctor visit.

So, S.B., before we enter 2014 and the mandated insurance world that many of us cannot afford, get your more-well-off friends to help out the Neighborhood Clinics with a donation. That is a more important donation than any other charity right now, because they are needed more than ever now and in the future.


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