Much is being made about Mitt Romney's "I like to fire 'em" line. Some commentators have noted just how lame handed that line is. Others have gone on to insist that we not twist Romney's words, that he was not speaking of personal joy in firing workers at one of the companies Bain was downsizing or closing.
I agree that we shouldn't twist Romney's words and that he was, indeed, speaking of getting rid of the insurance company that wasn't serving my needs. What that demonstrates is that Romney isn't very sophisticated about the connotations of his words, but he also has no clue about how ordinary Americans buy their health insurance.
In my fifty years of work I've been employed by maybe a dozen employers. But let me focus on just the employment by the church, the inter-regnum between church and college, and employment by a series of colleges.
When I was Pastor of LCA and ELCA churches my health insurance, and my family's coverage was provided by the church. The church was self-insuring through the Board of Pensions. From 1975 to 1997 I was covered by the board of pensions. The coverage got worse and the price went higher, but if I was going to participate in the pension plan I had to participate in the insurance plan. I was told, when I asked, that this was due to government regulation. Don't know how or why, but that's what I was told. I did not have a choice to "fire" my insurance company and "hire" another.
Between 1997 and 1999 I did freelance work, worked for a deli, and finally worked for the Swedish American Museum. I was offered Cobra for health coverage when I left the church, but I could not afford it. Kris' employer picked up her health insurance. But I was uninsured because I couldn't afford it.
When I went to work for St. Olaf I was offered health insurance as part of my pay package. I knew that I needed to take it, no matter how bad the insurance was, because it was better than what I could afford otherwise.
Since moving to Kansas I've been covered through the ACCK. The coverage has been, surprisingly good, particularly since I got sick and used up my coinsurance and deductible. Once a year I get to reup and pick up any other insurance products. I can opt out of the program if I opt into another program. I can't just hot have insurance coverage. And I can't drop out and change my company in the middle of the year.
I can't fire my insurance company now because I have a pre-existing condition, and until "Obamacare" is fully enacted, I can be turned down for coverage.
What does Mitt want? He wants me to be exposed to the vagaries of the marketplace where I can now be turned down for coverage (as my friend Mark already is, as my friend Deb struggles with). He somehow believes that insurance is chump change and I can easily take my insurance dollar down the block -- let's see, my employer pays 2/3 of the premium -- and how do I make that up?
The offensive thing about Romney's fire you insurance company line isn't that he used the word "fire." It's that he has no idea how people get their health insurance or how they pay for it.