An Open Letter To President Obama On Health Care Reform And What It Means To My Family

Mr. President:

I know that you are a very busy man so I will try to keep my questions about health care reform and the recently passed legislation as short and simple as possible.

– I could ask you why you think this is a good piece of legislation even though I truly believe that it will be a failure and will come very close to bankrupting the country. The basis for my conclusion has nothing to do with political partisanship (in fact, I have never voted for a Republican for national office in my life.) From my perspective, “Obama Care” never effectively addressed the root causes of our escalating health care costs: Americans eat too much of the wrong kinds of food, they exercise far too little, they are overweight, they smoke too much, and they are getting older. This legislation does not address these causes, it just raises taxes and moves money around within the bureaucracy. I could ask you about this but I will not.

– I could ask you why you have not stepped forward and denounced those in your party that have likened Americans like myself, i.e. those that have legitimate and honest concerns about this health care reform bill, to the racists who fought against the civil rights movement from the 1960s. I thought that we lived in a free country where citizens could freely address their elected representatives without being slurred in the most debasing way possible, just for having a different opinion. Your lack of fortitude to oppose those Democrats who frequently use the term “racist” to malign myself and those Americans expressing their honest opposition, cheapens the bravery and contributions of those from long ago that fought actual racism. I could ask you about this but I will not.

– I could ask you why you felt it necessary to pass this legislation by the back door called reconciliation. This is a major, major issue in the country that will affect every American for decades to come. Sneaking it in the back door, without using the traditional, time honored method of passing laws in his country, belittles the approach and makes it look like it was forced through without the full weight of the democratic process behind it. I could ask you about this but I will not.

Here is what I will ask you about. But first, some background facts:

– Let me reiterate that both my wife and myself have never voted for a Republican for national office in our lives.

– We both spent several decades of our lives working hard for AT&T, retiring several years ago, secure in our thinking that AT&T’s promise of health care benefits and coverage for our long years of service was a good bet.

– We both try to eat well, we exercise at our local YMCA on an almost daily basis, neither of us smoke, and we rarely drink. In other words, we take personal responsibility for our health and our health care.
One reason for our personal responsibility behavior is that we are on a high deductible insurance plan with AT&T. We are each responsible for the first $1,200 of our annual health care costs before we get any insurance coverage at all. However, for this personal responsibility, we also pay nothing in annual premiums.

– During the debate leading up to the passage of health care reform, you reiterated more than once that those of us that currently had health care coverage would be able to keep it. However, in a recent article in Fortune magazine, the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, was interviewed (several pages of the article are attached). Towards the end of the interview, he was explicitly asked whether AT&T would consider dropping health care insurance coverage for its employees and retirees. His response made it clear that this was a very viable option for two reasons. First, from a business profitability perspective, under the new health care reform law, “you’re better off paying the government a fine and dropping health care coverage for your employees”, improving AT&Ts bottom line. Second, he talks about “economic gravity” which appears to be code words for “if others in his industry do it, AT&T will have no choice but to do it also.”

Thus, a few quick questions for you:

1) Were you just naive when you made the comments that we could all keep our current health care insurance, not realizing the simple fact that companies are in business to make money and if this bill makes it easier for them to make more money by not insuring their workforce, that is what they will do? Or were you being disingenuous, knowing that this would happen and deliberately misinforming the country to help get your health care reform bill passed? Naive or disingenuous, in either case you will be making millions of American voters unhappy in November and in 2012 when we are forced out of our current health care coverage and will blame you for either ignorance or arrogance in this situation.

2) I am 57 years old and my wife is 56 years old and if Mr. Stephenson does decide to terminate AT&T’s health care coverage for employees and retirees, where do you suggest that my wife and I get coverage? What insurance company is going to want to pick us up, and millions of other older Americans who lost their coverage, at our ages even though we are both healthy and taking personal responsibility for our continued good health?

3) If we are forced out onto the market for health care insurance coverage, our new coverage is likely going to be much more expensive. Our annual health care costs will go from a maximum of $1,200 each to a minimum of several thousand dollars each. Is this how you planned to reduce health care costs for middle class America? Is so, then you need to explain the math to me. Maximum of $1,200 to a minimum of several thousand dollars, does not make sense out here in the real world. How does this reduce the escalating health care costs for the 90% of Americans that already had health care insurance prior to the passage of this bill?

Thus, I am not going to ask you about why you and the rest of Congress did not address the root causes of high health care costs in your legislating process. I am not going to ask why you have sat back and been silent while those Americans with legitimate and honest dissent against this bill have been likened to racists by members of your party. I thought you represented all Americans, not just those that agreed with your policies. I will not ask you about why you did not have the courage and guts to pass this legislation the right way, through the front door like every other piece of legislation, but instead snuck it through the back door of reconciliation.

However, I will ask you or your staff to contact me and explain where and how I can get health care coverage at my age if AT&T and the rest of corporate America decides it is a better economic choice to pay a government fine than to cover their employees and retirees with health insurance. I will ask you to explain whether you were naive or disingenuous when explaining that we would be able to keep our current health insurance coverage. And finally, please explain how paying no more than $1,200 a year under my current coverage (with many years paying nothing for coverage during healthy years) is a better deal then finding new coverage at my age and paying several thousand dollars a year for the privilege.

Although I have written to the White House many times, I have never received any answer to my questions on a wide variety of topics even though you promised to have the most open and responsive administration of all time. That has not happened yet. However, in this case I do require, in fact I demand specific answers to my three questions above. For your political sake I hope to receive those answers before early November and certainly before 2012.

Thank you for your time,

Walter “Bruno” Korschek

[Follow up note: a month after sending this to the White House, no answers to the questions have been received or even a simple confirmation that this letter was received has been forthcoming from the Obama adminstration.]