Highlights from Hair Balls
Even as the United States government shut down over a deadlock in Congress regarding the continued funding of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the insurance exchanges created by the law that allow private citizens to shop for plans that will cover them despite pre-existing conditions opened for business Monday morning. The online servers and even some phone operators themselves occasionally locked up under the flood of people seeking coverage, but many people in Houston were still able to secure new plans — some of them for the first time in years.
"Who benefits from Obamacare?" asked Martha Vasquez-Delgado on Facebook. "Me, I have a pre existence condition called Multiple Sclerosis, my medications are $4000 a month. Yes, a fucking month .And we just switched insurance. Thank you, President Obama. And forget you opposers."
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One person who has been avidly waiting for this day for years is Alexis Kidd, the wife of legendary Houston punk rocker Christian Kidd of The Hates. Christian is retired from his day job working for the City of Houston, and receives a small healthcare package as part of his pension. Alexis, sadly, was never able to be added because of her history with mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the protective lining of many of the body's internal organs.
Though Alexis's cancer has been in remission for years, they've been waiting in fear of its return while the years between the passage of the ACA and the day that she could no longer be denied affordable coverage to treat her disease passed slowly. Aid came from private sources, such as Wish Upon a Wedding, which provides financial help to couples seeking to marry but whose funds are tied up with treatments, and Dream Rooms Furniture, which donated $1,500 to the Kidds after a successful Facebook like campaign.
Alexis found the signup online glitchy. A section that asked her to pick security questions had no options. Even when she attempted to call and speak to a representative in person, she wasn't able to completely finish the process since the system continued to have issues, locking up from so many people signing up.
"I know that on the first day of anything new, there can and will be trouble," said Alexis. "Working for a software company taught me that. In a way, it is kind of a good thing that people are genuinely interested in looking to see for themselves what Obamacare can do to help them...at this point, almost any kind of insurance is better than the nothing many of us have now."
Author Joni Rodgers (Bald in the Land of Big Hair), a cancer survivor, is also among those who enthusiastically signed up for the ACA insurance exchanges. For years she'd either been turned down flat for coverage or offered coverage at $1,400 to $1,600 a month. Using the exchanges, she was able to find a plan for only $240 a month that can cover her when her husband retires.
"It was actually okay with them that before today, my choices were to die, leave the country or divorce my husband of 30 years to protect his retirement savings," said Rodgers. "That was not okay with Barack Obama. I am incredibly grateful to him for fighting this fight on my behalf."
The fight to defund or delay Obamacare continues to rage in Congress, with no signs of progress at the time of this writing. Despite the wrangling at the top, though, those who were targeted by the law to receive health care previously denied to them because of their conditions are rapidly signing up in a state that has topped the list of most uninsured Americans for five years running.
Government Shut Down
Five ways your life will be screwed.
With the Affordable Care Act tied to the federal budget, and the Senate and House of Representatives about as cooperative as a herd of sugared-up, nap-free toddlers, it seemed inevitable that the government would shut down at 12:01 a.m. on October1...and it did.
A government shutdown hasn't happened since way back in 1995 (or in 2003 if you're at all inclined to count The West Wing as "real"). Most of the services you're used to will still basically work (mail still gets delivered, military keeps on doing military things and the people in airports won't just walk off the job), but there are a few things government won't be doing until Congress figures out how to get out of this death grip and get the show funded again.
1. So you want to buy a gun.
You've always wanted a bang-bang. In fact, you've saved up all your pennies for the last five years and you've already got your gun-totin' outfit all picked out. You're gonna go get yourself that gun permit bright and early tomorrow? Think again. The shutdown affects the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, so, to translate, long as the shutdown lasts, your dream gun will have to wait, CNN reports.
2. You want to talk to the Internal Revenue Service about your taxes.
Tough luck. Government workers who are deemed "essential," like law enforcement, get to stay on, though they won't be getting paid for a while so they aren't likely in a good mood about it, but "non-essentials" will not be working. Go on and phone the IRS call center to ask why your taxes are too high or inquire if your dog needs to pay taxes — it'll ring and ring and they'll never answer because essential they are not, according to the LA Times. Also, that tax exemption you requested expires October 15, so if you're just now figuring out that whole tax thing, better find a buddy because there will be no help from the IRS hotline.
3. You're camping in Yosemite and you haven't heard about the government shutdown that started four days ago.
Good luck, dude, and we hope you brought plenty of supplies. Thanks to the shutdown, all national parks were closed and campers given two days to get out of said parks. We like to think that this worked the way it works when workers close a bookstore — walking the aisles and flushing everyone out — but the park employees aren't getting paid, so they may not have felt like being super-thorough before they hit the lights, locked up and left. Same goes for national museums like the Smithsonian and the National Gallery, according to The Washington Post. All places you don't want to be stuck in, because the government workers who would let you out, well, they're on furlough, man.
4. You're a nonessential federal employee, but you're a workaholic, so you'll just volunteer your time.
You've got another think coming. It doesn't matter if you're a White House aide or you really like helping people figure out where the bathrooms are in Yellowstone Park or you just really hate sitting at home because your family is needy, your cat doesn't like to see too much of you or you're only happy when filing something — you still won't be allowed to just give Uncle Sam your time without getting paid. A 19th-century law put the kibosh on volunteers because the government doesn't want the bums coming back around asking for back pay post-shutdown, according to D.C. lawyer Ray Natter.
5. You've finally bought that ticket for Paris and now all you need is your passport to live your dream.
Hate to break it to you, buddy, but you won't be going to the City of Light to party like Hemingway and get lost trying to find the Eiffel Tower. Passports aren't among the essential things when there is no working federal government. The State Department says it has a little bit of outside funds to keep it going, but if this shutdown drags out like the last one did, those funds won't last very long, and once that money is gone, there will be no passport for you, according to USA Today.
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