Good news for freelancers: Healthcare.gov finally seems to be working

Are you sick of hearing about Obamacare yet?  Well yeah….sorry about that.  It’s sort of my fault that we had to go through all this Affordable Care Act stuff.  You see I’m one of 30 million Americans without health insurance.  Actually, I haven’t had insurance (or an official employer) for more than four years now.  I guess you could say I was one of the first people pushed into the “new economy” after the Great Recession.  In the fall of 2008 I was working for an A/V company that kept me stationed at a fancy hotel in the financial district of Chicago.  We’d set up and run huge meetings and parties for a lot of companies that turned out to be major players in the 2008 crash.  I’ll never forget the day when my boss called me and said that my schedule for the next week had been changed from 40 hours to 8 hours.  It turns out one of our biggest clients, Lehman Brothers, had cancelled all their upcoming events because the company had just declared bankruptcy.

After that, things fell apart pretty quickly.  Our new business dried up and my hours were cut in half for the rest of the year.  About a dozen of our biggest clients were seeking government bailouts and I guess most of them realized it wouldn’t look too good if they were caught spending $50,000 on banquets at a luxury hotel.

By the spring of 2009 it was all over.  My company laid me off along with about 50 other local A/V techs.  Since the job market was suddenly flooded by a bunch of guys who had way more experience than I did, I knew my career in A/V was probably over.  Eventually I got back on my feet thanks to video contests.  There was a good stretch of time where my only income came from winning them.  Today I make money in a few different ways but my main source of income comes from freelance editing.  I don’t miss my old job at all and I love the freedom that comes with being my own boss.  But the downside is that I haven’t been able to afford health insurance in more than four years.

Until now.

Staring on January 1 I’ll be covered by Blue Cross thanks to that “train wreck” called Obamacare!  Last week I went to Healthcare.gov and the site worked like a charm.  Once I got into “the marketplace” I was shocked by how good and how affordable the plans actually are.  About a year ago I tried to buy health insurance on my own and the best price I could find was about $300 a month for a plan that was basically a piece of junk.  (It was the kind of plan that’s now illegal to sell thanks to the affordable care act.)  On the government exchange I was able to buy a “silver” plan from Blue Cross at a VERY fair price.  Plus I qualified for a tax credit and that will save me a few hundred bucks a year.  And to my surprise, I was also able to buy dental insurance in the marketplace too.  It blows my mind that so many people think that the Affordable Care Act is going to hurt this country. The insurance industry was out of control and we really needed the government to step in and regulate things.

If you’re a freelancer or a self-employed producer and you don’t have insurance, now’s your chance to go buy a little piece of mind.  Like I said, you might be surprised by the kind of plans you can actually buy on Healthcare.gov.  (I was surprised to learn that 100% of preventative care is covered in all plans, even the cheap “bronze” plans.)  You might want to sign up sooner rather than later because if I’ve learned anything from the Crash the Super Bowl contest, 90% of people are going to wait until the last minute to sign up.  One final tip:  If you tried to sign up for the exchange in October, you should try creating a new account.  I created an account weeks ago but I kept getting an error message when I tried to log in again.  I think the old accounts never got verified so I just started over and I was able to sign up without encountering a single glitch.

John Boehner, The Speaker of the House of Representatives, apparently does not understand what a “video contest” is

On August 19th, The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius announced the “Healthy Young America Video Contest.”  The contest is being run by a group named “Young Invincibles” and its goals are to promote the positive aspects of the Affordable Care act and to encourage young Americans to sign up for health insurance.  The contest is small and harmless (only $30,000 in prizes are at stake) but conservatives started tearing the project apart as soon as it was launched.  One of the very first “entries” came from the office of the Speaker of House, John Boehner.  On August 22nd, his team posted this “entry” for the Affordable Care Act video contest on Boehner’s official, government-funded, blog:

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According to CNN.com, “Those seven million are expected to come specifically from employment-based coverage and many of them, the CBO anticipates, will be joining the insurance exchanges that the ACA setup instead.”  But I guess that little detail got left off the poster because it’s funnier to scare people into thinking that they might not have health insurance because of the ACA.
 
Apparently John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the highest-ranking Republican in the United States of America does not understand that you can’t submit a POSTER to a VIDEO contest.  And what’s really disturbing is that even though the media has pointed out the fact that photoshopped posters are not videos, Boehner has gone on to sarcastically “submit” two more posters to the contest.  Now obviously, John Boehner isn’t sitting at his computer, designing these images himself.  (The man doesn’t even understand how to properly operate a spray-tanning booth so we can assume that Photoshop is probably way over his head.)  It looks like the entries are being designed and posted by Boehner’s Digital Communications Director, Caleb Smith. But Boehner has been proudly promoting the posters on Twitter.

 

I get what these guys are trying to do with these posters but their execution is just lazy and embarrassing.  If Team Boehner had actually made an effort to create a sarcastic video for the Young Invincibles contest, it could have been a really clever burn on the President.  Caleb Smith even refers to himself as a “Video Storyteller” on twitter.  I’m sure the guy knows Final Cut Pro or iMove.  All he had to do was animate the layers of the posters he made and add some condescending voice over and boom, Speaker Boehner’s got a legitimate entry that they contest organizers would actually have to accept or reject.

But I think what really bothers me here is the fact that Speaker’s Communications Department clearly understands that they have been pretending to submit goofy posters to a contest that only accepts video submissions.  But to paraphrase Adam Savage Dr. Who, they have decided to reject reality and substitute their own.  Here’s a quote from the Speaker’s blog that explains their motivations.

“Young Americans know the least about” ObamaCare, and we’re fixing to do something about that. Not only that, we’re doing it in style by joining the Obama administration’s health ad contest, in which citizens are encouraged to create a song, or a graphic or a video” about this ‘wonderful’ law.

The “Young Invicibles” contest has three categories.  Contestants can submit a video of themselves performing a song, an animation or a video about how young people are “not invincible.”   But it turns out that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a little slip-up when she first announced the contest.  In the middle of her speech about the video contest she misspoke and used the word “graphic” instead of “animation.”  Any reasonable, thoughtful human being who watched the entire speech or who read about the announcement in the paper or who checked out the contest’s website or who read the official rules would understand what she meant.  But I guess the folks who work in John Boehner’s Communications Department are not reasonable, thoughtful people.  They pounced on Sebelius’ quote and then distorted the facts of the contest to fit their own goals.  They wanted to mock “Obamacare” but they didn’t want to spend a whole afternoon making a video.  So they just ignored the fact that this is unquestionably a video contest and present one, misspoken word as the truth.  The Speaker’s blog doesn’t even mention the competition’s real name since that would make their joke-posters look pretty stupid.  Instead they refer to the Young Invicibles’ “Healthy Young America Video Contest” as the “Obama administration’s health care ad contest.”

This whole dumb story is actually a perfect example of one of the things that’s wrong with the modern republican party.  If the right can’t back up their beliefs with facts, they have to twist and distort the truth so it appears to support their claims.  Remember this motto from the 2nd day of the 2012 Republican National Convention?

Fun Fact: The 2012 convention was held in a convention center built with public funds
Fun Fact: The 2012 RNC convention was held in a convention center built with public funds

For a whole day, a litany of right-wing speakers bashed President Obama because he said that if you have a small business in America, “You didn’t build that.”  Though President Obama really did use the exact phrase “you didn’t build that” it was clear to anyone who read the full quote that he meant that individuals didn’t build public roads or the Internet.  And hardcore political junkies even recognized that President Obama was just delivering a clunkier version of an impromptu remark from Elizabeth Warren that went viral in 2011.

So here’s what the President actually said:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Someone at FOX & Friends realized that if they took the quote out of context and only played the line “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that” they could distort what the president meant without technically misquoting him.  So FOX ran the part of the line that made President Obama look bad and they cut out the part that explained what he meant.  According to Media Matters, “In the two days that followed Fox’s initial misrepresentation of Obama’s remarks, the network devoted 42 segments and more than two hours of airtime to misrepresenting Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remarks.”  And so, the “you didn’t build that” myth was born and eventually a giant “We did build that!” sign was erected above the stage of the 2012 Republican national Convention.  Even though independent fact-checkers excoriated FOX news, and even though every person who spoke at the RNC Convention probably understood what President Obama actually mean, they all decided that they were going to stick with the lie they had concocted because it was politically convenient.

And that’s why this story about John Boehner’s posters is worth talking about.  It’s not just some random joke. We now live in a country where one of the two major parties has decided that the truth is open to interpretation and that it can be twisted whenever a gimmick needs a little support.  The president makes an awkward statement and that quote gets warped and misrepresented and eventually it becomes one of the main themes of the 2012 RNC convention.  And if the Secretary of Health and Human Services has a slip of the tongue and says one wrong word then the Speaker of the House of the United States of America can flat out misrepresent reality just so he can make a cheap, intellectually dishonest joke on his blog.
 

DO IT FOR AMERICA and maybe some prize money: Explain the benefits of the Affordable Care Act!

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Are you excited for October 1st!?  I know I sure am.  10/1/13 is opening day for the heath insurance exchanges that were created under the Affordable Care Act!  I’m genuinely psyched about this because I’m sick and tired of all the lies, half-truths and rumors Fox News some conservatives have been gleefully spreading about this thing we all call “Obamacare.”  If you only get your “news” from the right-wing media, you probably believe that most Americans hate The Affordable Care Act and want to see it repealed and/or defunded before this country turns into the Soviet States of America.  But what Rush Limbaugh and Megan Kelly and Sean Hannity and your uncle Jeff won’t tell you is that a lot of the individual components of the Affordable Care act actually score through the roof with people across the political spectrum.  You know those ACA Insurance Exchanges I mentioned?  Well according to this 2012 Reuters poll….

80% of Republicans favor “creating an insurance pool where small businesses and uninsured have access to insurance exchanges to take advantage of large group pricing benefits.” That’s backed by 75 percent of independents.  

That’s right….80% of the people who are cheering on Ted Cruz’s suicidal efforts to de-fund Obamacare by shutting down the entire government actually support many of the key components of the law.  But conservatives have done such an amazing job distorting the facts about the ACA that millions of people still don’t understand what it actually does.  (It seems like many just think it’s free insurance for lazy poor people.)  Actually, in a weird coincidence, a moderate-conservative friend of mine called me today to tell me she just got fired.  Obviously she was bummed but she was especially freaked out about losing her health insurance in 30 days.  She said she was going to sign up for that COBRA thing which costs a fortune.  I told her, “Hey, by october 1st you can go to one of the Obamacare exchanges and get a great deal on insurance.  And since you’re unemployed, you may even qualify for Medicare!”  She thought I was joking.  She had no idea she could do that thanks to the ACA.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to October 1st.  Your Uncle Jeff will probably, finally shut up about Obamacare after his kid with Diabetes is able to buy affordable health insurance for the first time in his life.  Once Americans actually start to experience the benefits of this law, they’re going to realize that it’s not an evil new form of socialism.  After October 1st, the fighting and the lies and the calls for repeal will probably begin to die down and we can all get back to arguing about important issues like Syria and Miley Cyrus’ butt cheeks.

So if you’d like to help spread the word about the good stuff that the Affordable Care Act does you may want to enter the “Healthy Young America” video contest.  It’s sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and a group named Young Invincibles.  The goal is to explain the benefits of the ACA and to encourage young Americans to sign up for heath insurance.  There are lots of prizes at stake and First Place is worth $6,500.  The deadline for entries is September 23rd.  For more info and prize details, head here:  http://health.younginvincibles.org/video-contest