I write all day at work. Lucky! you might say. And yeah, it’s the kind of work I’m good at. But it’s not that simple.

You see, I work for a health insurance company, and my job is to write correspondence, all day long, letting doctors and hospitals know why we’re not paying them for treatment–or not paying them as much as they thought we would be.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a medical provider might not get paid. They didn’t jump through the hoops of getting the treatment authorized. They did not sign a contract with us. Our medical experts have reviewed the treatment and deemed it to be experimental.

I can take some slight comfort in the fact that most of the time, when the insurance coverage is denied, the provider is required to write the charges off–so they are not allowed to bill the denied amount to the patient. Still, I’m sure the extra costs are passed on in one form or another.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, just to let you know that I am, in fact, what Sarah Palin and the Tea Party warned you about back when they were screaming about Obamacare. I am the bureaucrat who stands between you and your health care.

Of course, Republicans are strangely silent about people like me. Apparently, the fact that I’m getting paid for my health care denials by a private corporation rather than the government makes them more acceptable. On their end, medical providers have to create entire departments to deal with insurance billing and authorization rules, time and money which isn’t being spent on treating patients. Once again, though, the same conservatives who abhor extra government regulations are very capable of turning a blind eye to those same regulations when they are created in the name of private profit.

The truth is, health care costs will need to be controlled, no matter what the system in place. If we ever do have a single payer system, it will be funded with taxpayer money, and that taxpayer money should be treated with respect. We will still have to determine that the treatment being prescribed is reasonable, and that providers aren’t recommending unnecessary procedures (and by the way, providers trying to charge patients for fraudulent or ineffective treatment is something which happens frequently in our for-profit health care system). Republicans try to paint a scary picture of a single payer system in which you will be restricted from getting the care you want, whereas they claim that in a privatized health care system you have the freedom to choose any doctor and treatment you like. That is simply not true. Sure, you are free to choose any service you like–if you can pay the sky-high uninsured costs for it, which the vast majority of people can’t. You need health insurance to help pay for your care, and when you have insurance, the insurance company restricts what care you can get.

Of course, in our system the very wealthy do have the freedom to pursue whatever kind of medical treatment they want–and travel to get it wherever they like–and these are really the only people the conservatives in Congress care about, anyway.

My fundamental point is that single payer health care is nothing to be scared of. Your health care options are not going to be any more restricted than they are now, and you will be able to get treated for your illness or injury without having to go bankrupt in the process. Not a bad idea at all.

Take it from a health insurance bureaucrat.

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This blog post dedication goes out to a very special presidential candidate…and the way he’s changed my life.

As some of you may know, I work in the health insurance industry, for a local company which shall remain nameless.  Yes, it feels paradoxical to be working in that field when I’m a supporter of a single payer system, but that’s life for ya.  Working in insurance may seem like the most boring career path ever–I’m like Kafka without the brilliant novels–but over the years, I’ve enjoyed my job and found some good friends among my co-workers.  It’s been a nice stable paycheck, and I was hoping to keep working there for years to come.

And now the company I work for is imploding.  Why?  Well, there are multiple factors, but a major one stands out.

When insurance companies agreed to join the Obamacare exchange, the government promised them payments from something called a risk corridor program.  This was meant to compensate them for the fact that they would be taking on a large number of new customers who had been uninsured for a long time, and thus would be very sick and would need costly treatment.  This turned out to be true, and costs for the industry have been even higher than expected.  If anything, this is evidence for just how broken our healthcare system was previous to the Affordable Care Act.  All these newly insured Americans are now finally receiving care for medical conditions they were often forced to neglect because they couldn’t afford to have them treated.

I certainly do not expect sympathy for insurance companies in this scenario.  However, the risk corridor payments were supposed to make the transition to Obamacare smoother and keep the health care infrastructure from falling to pieces.  Supposed to.  But only 13% of the risk corridor money which was promised has been paid out.  And it’s all because of that one very special guy.  Yep, Marco Rubio.  Marco cut most of the risk corridor money out of the budget, and he’s very proud of it.  He brags about being the only conservative who has truly succeeded in damaging Obamacare.  Because it’s so much more important to stick it to the President than to allow Americans access to health care…

So now, insurance companies across the country are going out of business, employees are facing layoffs–and the truly frustrating thing is that Obamacare is getting the blame.  I’m hearing it myself around my own workplace.  It’s easy to think that it’s Obama’s fault, if you haven’t heard all the facts.  Rubio knew what he was doing.

Okay, so saying that I’m not voting for Marco for President is a bit of an empty threat–it’s not like I was going to vote for him before.  Still, I’m definitely never voting for him now. Not for dogcatcher.  I’d gladly vote for Bernie over him.  A shoe could be running against him and I would vote for the shoe.  Call it a personal grudge.

Say it with me, everyone:  elections have consequences.  Think there’s no difference between the candidates?  Think it’s not worth your time to vote?  Nope, nope, nope.  My future, and the future of almost 2,000 other workers, hangs in the balance right now because of the actions of one man.  Vote like the quality of your life depends on it… because it does!!!

It’s been difficult enough to wave my Democratic pom-poms lately, but now my feelings are even more divided than before–this time, about my local vote for governor.

John Kitzhaber, the Democratic candidate running for re-election as governor of Oregon, has found himself in the midst of exploding scandal over the past few days. It has to do with his fiance, Cylvia Hayes, and various revelations about her–that she was paid $5,000 for a “green card” marriage to a young Ethiopian immigrant, and about her one-time plans to run a pot farm. I don’t care about either of those very much. These are the actions of the fiance, not Kitzhaber himself. What does bother me is that she was employed as a consultant to the governor and landed some plum contracts as a result, possibly in breach of state ethics. When it comes to Kitzhaber, I also can’t forget that CoverOregon–our state version of the Obamacare exchange–was bungled as badly as it was. Kentucky did a better job on its website. I’m a big supporter of the ACA, but the CoverOregon site didn’t work for months and cost the state millions of dollars.

I want to vote for the Democrats. I’m glad that Oregon is a blue state. But I get the sense that the Democrats who have been running the state for so long have gotten a little too comfortable. They know that people are going to vote for them, almost no matter what. (I’m pretty sure Kitzhaber is going to win his fourth term this year.) They have become a ruling clique. We need fresh liberal blood in this state.

But with that being said, I’m not excited about voting for Kitzhaber’s Republican opponent, Dennis Richardson, either. His values don’t match mine. We’re talking someone who opposes both Obamacare and marriage equality.

So what do I do now? Is there some Green Party/Socialist Party candidate I can throw my vote away on? (The only third party candidate I see in my voter guide is the Constitution Party guy, which…ugh.) Should I just abstain from voting? Seriously, somebody advise me. I’m no longer a voter divided at this point–I’m a voter torn to shreds.

Well, the election is just a few weeks away and my mind is in pieces. Politically speaking, I’m stuck in a no-man’s-land between disappointment and anxiety. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way right now.

I’m disappointed by the airstrikes in Syria. Disappointed that no matter which party is in power, we keep doing our perpetual war thing. Our addiction to constant military conflict seems to be a train which has jumped the tracks and cannot be stopped by anyone. I just hope it doesn’t end with our country’s demise.

But I’m anxious that if the Republican side gains too much strength, they could do even more damage. Their openly stated goal from the beginning has been to block and get in the way of anything the President proposes. I can complain about the Middle East, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, my mother has health insurance for the first time in years. Repealing the ACA would have a real effect on my life and my family. Also, I’m in no mood to see the guys in Congress try to force more socially conservative stuff down our throats.

Having Obama in office hasn’t made as much difference as I had hoped it would. But having more Republicans in the House and Senate could make a bigger difference than we think it will.

So the disappointed side of me will continue to shake a fist at all the pictures of pretty, pretty missile explosions which my TV box keeps showing me. But the anxious side of me will vote for and is signing up to volunteer for the local Democrats in our state.

The rest of me remains in no-man’s-land.

So it seems we are now deep in the doldrums of a presidency. I guess this is what people mean when they say the second term is always a problem.

And a problem it is indeed. I’m not happy about a lot of things. I’m not happy about the situation with Russia. I’m not happy with the IRS losing e-mails. I’m not happy about the flood of kids coming across our border, although in that case I’m unhappy with both sides for a muddled immigration policy. And I’m very unhappy about the conditions at the VA.

And, with all that being said, I still don’t regret my vote for the President’s re-election. With all the things I’m unhappy about, would I have voted for Romney/Ryan? Nope. I would not have voted for someone who would’ve done his best to repeal the ACA–definitely not voted for someone whose budget plan would have cut Medicare and Social Security. And I would not have voted for someone who would possibly have gotten us involved in another war with Iran.

Politicians are flawed, so they will not always make me happy. As long as I’m less unhappy than I was during the W years, it’s all good. Happiness, after all, is the absence of pain. It will remain to be seen what Obama’s legacy will be in the end, and we will not be able to determine that until his presidency is over and some time has passed. All I know is that one day, when we have a Republican in the White House again? I will miss this guy soooooo much.

July 4th seems like a good time for an optimistic post. I’ve been experiencing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) first hand, as I work in the health care industry, and here’s a little update about how that’s been going….

The start of this year was complete insanity, as the insurance company I work for scrambled to deal with a steep increase in business. And no, the fact that we weren’t *quite* as prepared as we should be was not the government’s fault… Thankfully, things have stabilized now and my days are no longer crazy and overwhelming. However, we still have a lot more customers and a lot more work, so there is still overtime available. And this, of course, means fatter paychecks for me. Sheesh, thanks a lot, Obama! 😉

At home, my mother finally has health insurance, after years of going without. Now it’s just a matter of talking her into going for a check-up…but that’s not an issue of cost anymore, just her dislike of going to the doctor!

So far, the effects of the Affordable Care Act on my life and the lives of my loved ones have been positive. Could things have been better? Sure. A friend of mine recently received some very bad news about her health, and this has been a blow to all of us who know and care about her. The one silver lining? She is very grateful that she made the decision to move to Canada shortly before she was diagnosed with her illness. In her Facebook posts, she almost always mentions how thankful she is to be part of the Canadian health care system. She has more than enough to deal with right now, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about going into debt or not being able to afford her treatment. And that’s a relief.

So yes, single payer would be even better. But, since that doesn’t seem like a realistic option in the States anytime soon, I’ll take the health care reform we’ve had over nothing. Here’s to our beautiful country reaching even higher in the years to come. And remember, you don’t have to believe the anti-ACA propaganda–Happy Independence Day!

Dear Portland…our relationship has been difficult lately.

There was the time when we went for a gallery walk on First Thursday and none of the art galleries were open, because it turns out you shut everything down super early.  The same thing happened when my friends and I decided to go out on a Wednesday evening.  The night was still young, but you were a ghost town.  As my mother so aptly put it, “Portlanders go to bed with the chickens…except that here, the chickens are wearing hand-knitted sweaters.”  Portland, you’re a city.  Part of the deal is that you’re supposed to entertain me after it gets dark.

And do I even have to bring up Cover Oregon?  You had such big plans–our health insurance exchange was going to be the most ambitious in the country.  Obviously, it did not work out that way.  It’s embarrassing when Kentucky does a better job at socialist health care than we do.  And now, the FBI might be investigating Cover Oregon to see where all that money went.  Portland, please leave corruption to the big boys like Chicago.  You are inept at it.

But in spite of it all, I still love you.  Even though you try way too hard to impress me with your weirdness–were the bearded men in tutus really necessary?  Even though you’re not very wealthy, not very good at sports or business.  Every time I think about walking away into the arms of New York City, I end up staying.  You’re just so damn pretty and intelligent.  And like you, I’m a failing dreamer.  Yeah, we’re stuck with each other.  I’m even willing to forgive you for that Unipiper guy.

Like any long-time lover in a worn relationship, all I ask for anymore are the simple things.  Please, would you give me sunny weather for my week off?  I know late May is when you bring back the rain, but will you make an exception for me?  I won’t complain when it rains in June, I promise.  I’ll post pictures of you on my Facebook and talk about how beautiful you are.  I know how much you like being flattered.

P.S. —  I’m also planning to see an art exhibit this Sunday.  I’m sure it will be empty and closed.

xoxo, Karolina