Why Isn't Everyone More Worried about Me?

Apparently, there was a meeting of the editors at The New York Times op-ed page in which someone said, "You know how every time someone does a story about one of these Obamacare 'victims' whose insurance companies are cancelling their plans, it turns out they could do really well on the exchange, but no one bothers to check? We should get one of them to write an op-ed, but not bother to ask what options they'll have." And then someone else responded, "Right, don't bother with the fact-checking. But we need a new twist. What if we find someone who'll complain that the problem with Obamacare is that other people care too much about poor people and the uninsured, while what they ought to be doing is spending more time liking her Facebook post about her possibly increased premiums?" The editors looked at each other and said, "That's gold. Gold!"

And this was the result. Written by Lori Gottlieb, a Los Angeles psychotherapist and author, it relates how she got a cancellation letter from Anthem Blue Cross and was offered a plan for $5,400 more a year, then had a frustrating phone call with the company. Did she go to the California health exchange and find out what sorts of deals would be available to her? Apparently not. She took Anthem at their word—you can always trust insurance companies, after all!—then took to Facebook, where she "vented about the call and wrote that the president should be protecting the middle class, not making our lives substantially harder."

And here's where our story takes a shocking turn. Instead of expressing what she felt was the appropriate sympathy, those 1,037 people on Facebook she thought were her friends but turned out just to be "friends" had the nerve to point out that the Affordable Care Act will help millions of previously uninsured and uninsurable people get coverage. Gottlieb was disgusted with these people she termed the "smug insureds." And none of them even "liked" her post!

Like Bridget Jones's "smug marrieds," the "smug insureds" — friends who were covered through their own or spouses' employers or who were grandfathered into their plans — asked why I didn't "just" switch all of our long-term doctors, suck it up and pay an extra $200 a month for a restrictive network on the exchange, or marry the guy I'm dating. How romantic: "I didn't marry you just to save money, honey. I married you for your provider network."

Along with the smug insureds, President Obama doesn't care much about the relatively small percentage of us with canceled coverage and no viable replacement. He keeps apologizing while maintaining that it's for the good of the country, a vast improvement "over all."

And the "over all" might agree. But the self-employed middle class is being sacrificed at the altar of politically correct rhetoric, with nobody helping to ensure our health, fiscal or otherwise, because it's trendy to cheer for the underdog. Embracing the noble cause is all very well — as long as yours isn't the "fortunate" family that loses its access to comprehensive, affordable health care while the rest of the nation gets it.

The truly noble act here is being performed by my friend Nicole, who keeps posting Obamacare fiasco stories on my Facebook page, despite being conspicuously ignored, except for my single "like." It's the lone "like" that falls in the forest, the click nobody wants to hear.

How terribly smug, to think that the fate of millions of poor people who will now get insurance is as important as the suffering of this one person who might have to pay more for comprehensive coverage, and also happens to have access to The New York Times where she can air her grievances! If only it weren't so "trendy to cheer for the underdog."

It's one thing to feel your own problems more acutely than those of other people, even millions of other people, even many whose problems make yours look trivial by comparison. We all do that, and we could barely function if we didn't. It's quite another thing to expect that other people will see your problems as more important than those of millions. I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago, and I'll admit that in the time since I've given more thought to my ankle's recovery than I have to the 660,000 people who die every year from malaria. But if I asked you why you aren't thinking more about my ankle than you are about malaria, you'd wonder if it was my brain that I had sprained.

I imagine that after her disappointment at the response to her Facebook post, Gottlieb will be even more disappointed with the response to her op-ed explaining her disappointment with the response to her Facebook post. So if she wants to feel better, the first thing she ought to do is go to the exchange and she what her options are. There's almost certainly something better than the plan her insurance company is trying to get her to buy. And then she can go to Facebook and ask her "friends" to celebrate her good fortune.

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