Obama: Forget Your Cable TV and Cell Phone, Buy Insurance Instead

At a recent Spanish language media town hall meeting, President Obama was asked a question by a man trying to buy health insurance for his family of three, but who could not afford it. The questioner, with an income of $36,000 per year, could not find an Obamacare plan for less than $315 per month, or approximately 1% of his pretax income. And that is per month, not per year. His annual family insurance cost would consume one eighth of his income. This is only for the premium. No mention yet of his annual deductible, likely another $6000 per year, about 20 percent of his annual earning. Don’t forget the copay. For a bronze plan, the least expensive Obamacare option, it’s 40 percent. This poor guy’s health insurance expenses are now north of a quarter of his income.

What happened to previous claims that, “everybody will get more and pay less under the health care law”? Instead, the President told the poor guy that his priorities were wrong – “If you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.”

The average cell phone bill is $71 per month, about the same as the average cable bill. These are well under half the monthly cost of Mr. Obama’s questioner’s new insurance cost. But didn’t Mr. Obama tell us, “You’re going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cell phone bill.” Another tall tale, which nicely complements the whopper of the year, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

Health insurance is not optional, unlike cable and a cell phone. There is no individual mandate requiring the purchase of a cell phone, with features you would never use, and a rate plan covering more minutes than you could possibly talk. Likewise, there is no mandate that someone purchase cable TV, with a specified number and variety of channels, even the ones you will never watch. Yet our poor guy has to fork over an eighth of his income for insurance with benefits and coverage that his family may never need. Under the threat of penalties and scrutiny from the IRS. Then again, the mandate was delayed until after the next election season, so if he opts to keep his phone and cable, rather than go broke buying insurance, at least he won’t have the IRS chasing him.

The President showed no empathy toward this man, stuck between a financial rock and a hard place. Instead he chastised him for having his priorities wrong; choosing a cell phone and cable TV over government mandated health insurance. Ahead of the 2012 election, Mitt Romney had an “empathy gap” according to the pollster wizards. Turns out this distinction belongs to the current President.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.