Carl Gibson is a well-known young and influential activist. He is the co-founder of US Uncut. He is also a prolific blogger at Huffington Post. He reports for Occupy.com. Carl Gibson has a platform. I interviewed him on my Move to Amend Reports radio show a few months ago. I found him to be very engaging, knowledgeable, and convincing. It is for this reason that the article he wrote for ReaderSupportedNews.org (rsn) was so disconcerting.
Carl Gibson laid out his mental path, the argument he made to himself for not signing up for the Affordable Care Act. His argument makes sense only if he is trying to convince himself not to do something he intrinsically knows he should do.
Gibson’s analysis is basically this. He exercises. He eats well. He does not take the flu shot. He meditates. So far in his 26 years of life he has only had the sniffles. His biggest healthcare cost was $6,000 for a surgery in 2011 when he broke his elbow. Even without insurance he was at near break–even as his premiums and deductibles would be close to that. Based on his current earnings, his out of pocket healthcare cost would be 15 percent of his income. In 2013 he was run off the road. A closer clinic refused to see him because he was uninsured. The hospital he drove to for an X-ray, bandage, and sling cost $2,500. He figures he would still be ahead in 2013 opting to be uninsured.
Carl Gibson misses several things. First, he has a propensity for accidents. In my 52 years I have had no accidents requiring hospitalization even as a cyclist for over 12 years. Second, the prices he was quoted as an uninsured person were likely subsidized by all those paying insurance as well as taxes. Third, not taking the flu shot is not a responsible thing to do, especially if one is uninsured. The swine flu is the prevailing strain this year and there have been several flu deaths in the Houston area already and likely throughout the country.
After Carl Gibson laid out the reasons he chose to opt out of Obamacare, he went into the issues Obamacare failed to address. Gibson is absolutely correct that a single payer system would have been the preferred option. It removes profits, executive salaries, and unnecessary overhead simply to pay a bill. He is correct that health insurance companies are nothing but entities created to profit off of the sick. He is correct that political bribery is responsible for a much less than optimal Affordable Care Act.
Lawrence O’Donnell attempted to convince Carl Gibson of his folly by bringing Gov. Howard Dean and Ezra Klein to his show for a pleasant debate. Dean agreed with much of what Gibson said but in effect said this was all that was unattainable at this time. He advised Gibson that he still needed to opt in to Obamacare to ensure he is protected from possible future catastrophe. Ezra Klein was a bit blunt. He said one could do the jerk-ish thing and be a free rider. Ezra however gave Gibson a civics lesson we have failed to teach many of our young. He said:
It is a mistake to think about yourself of having a singular relationship with the healthcare system. To say I am young and that’s my relationship to healthcare is wrong. One day you are going to be old. You sound healthy but one day you are going to be sick. And if every young person, every healthy person starts to game the system, then when they are old, when they are sick, there will be no system there that is affordable to take care of them.It is really that simple. Ezra Klein called this one right. Klein also made an important point that generally goes unnoticed. In a single payer system, premiums are not age-based and as such the young likely subsidized the old much more than under Obamacare. Under Obamacare premiums for the old can be up to 300 percent of those of the young.
Carl Gibson is a leader. There are many other young leaders that follow him throughout social media. As a leader and an activist it is his responsibility to be fully informed on critical issues that can have material longlasting health and financial effects on those who follow him, those who listen to him, and those who look up to him.
Carl Gibson and other young activists and leaders must stay in the healthcare debate. Obamacare is not the end of making the US healthcare system better for all. It is just the beginning. This country needs Gibson and all the young activists to be a part of demanding policy changes. They must be there continuously at every election if they want to be heard.
The Affordable Care Act and many other policies that affect the poor, the middle class, and specifically the youth would be much better if politicians knew these groups would remain engaged. The plutocracy depends on actions like Gibson’s and others to snuff incremental change because they are confident that absent an outright revolution, they will always get the outcomes they want.
Carl Gibson’s choice of opting out of the Affordable Care Act should be reconsidered for his own good and as an example to others. Moreover, he should be at the forefront to ensure not only that young people sign up, but that they stay engaged and make the Affordable Care Act and other policies more fair for us all going forward.