Political Animal


December 06, 2011 10:35 AM Meet Spike Dolomite Ward

By Steve Benen

I’ve long believed the public’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act is almost entirely the result of a misinformation campaign and disgust with Washington in general. Once the American mainstream came to realize what’s in the law, and the benefits families will enjoy going forward, support for the ACA would soar.

To be sure, polls suggest this is going slowly. Americans still don’t know what’s in the Affordable Care Act and still have sour attitudes towards the law itself.

But the process continues, and the public is still learning what the reform package means to them. For example, meet Spike Dolomite Ward. (thanks to TOA for the tip)

Ward, who does nonprofit work in Southern California, is a mom and a wife in an “ordinary, middle-class” family. She also found out three weeks ago that she has third-stage breast cancer.

In the L.A. Times today, Ward tells her story, explaining how her family struggled to stay insured after her husband lost his job, and was ultimately forced to choose “between paying our mortgage or paying for health insurance.” They decided to forgo the latter, and panicked after the recent diagnosis.

The good news is, Ward is able to take advantage of some already-implemented protections in the Affordable Care Act, including the new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. Ward didn’t know the program existed, but soon found that enrolling was easy, and her family could afford the premiums. She also found compassionate public officials who’ve been able to help.

Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I’m getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says “Got nope.” It will say “ObamaCares.”

I certainly wish Ward the best and will hope for a speedy recovery. In the larger context, I wonder how many more Americans will feel as she does about the health care law after relying on it in a time of need.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • c u n d gulag on December 06, 2011 10:39 AM:

    How long before Malkin sends her flying monkey's out to check out their counter-tops, or to see how "rich" they really are - like do they have an refrigerator, microwave, AND HDTV?

    3... 2... 1...

  • stevio on December 06, 2011 10:40 AM:

    Ward's story will send a chill down the spines of numerous ass hole Tea Party members who are still demanding the Government keep it's hands off their Medicare and Social Security.

    I hope fate is kind to the Wards.

    Not so much to imbeciles who allow their handlers and lack of intelligence get in the way of humanity.

  • c u n d gulag on December 06, 2011 10:41 AM:

    Btw - Spike Dolomite Ward! What a GREAT name!!!

  • T2 on December 06, 2011 10:51 AM:

    The ACA is pretty much a good thing, a real accomplishment for Obama. Could it have been better, yeah. The GOP did their usual masterful job in demonizing it, obsfucating all the positives and the Media helped by giving "fair and balanced" coverage to the anti-ACA forces and fanning the ACA hating TeaParty into being as its #1 nemesis. But time marches on, and little by little the Average Joe will see the benefits come to his family, and sometime down the road, when the Tea Party again means something that happened in Boston Harbor long ago, people will be glad the ACA exists. Unless Republicans kill it.

  • June on December 06, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Great story - but for the life of me, I still can't wrap myself around the kind of thinking this woman was doing when she was riding around with her crossed-out bumpersticker.

    As soon as Pres. Obama was elected, she didn't do ANYTHING to keep supporting him - not even to the extent of actually googling the ACA to know what was in it -- yet felt all the deliberate misinformation she was hearing from both right and left was the God's honest truth. She didn't even TRY to continue her support for Obama, yet felt that HE let her down.

    I'm glad this story has a happy ending, but I'm really tired of the seemingly unbreakable status quo of Americans being willfully ignorant about what's going on when it comes to politics - it truly hurts the country - Exhibit A, the Tea Party-contolled House.

  • Brenna on December 06, 2011 10:54 AM:

    I read this story earlier and was very encouraged. I told it to my husband who I hope will pass it along to his anti-Obama colleagues.

    I was mostly encouraged because our daughter will be turning 27 next year and will need to purchase her own health insurance as her employer doesn't offer it. She has a pre-existing conditio. While it is not terribly serious, she must take anti-seizure medicine which is VERY expensive. I'll be helping her fill out the forms next year.

    I don't understand how these cruel, heartless thug republicans expect people to pay premiums that are as high as their mortgage. But more importantly when will half intelligent Americans see they're voting against their own well-being? I guess when enough them face situations like Spike did.

    I wish her a full recovery!

  • Jurgan on December 06, 2011 10:59 AM:

    "Spike Dolomite Ward! What a GREAT name!!!"

    Agreed- she sounds like an action movie star. I'm hoping that, after she recovers, she goes on a roaring rampage of revenge against the Republican Party, dropping witty one-liners all the while.

  • Greentaxman on December 06, 2011 11:03 AM:

    I think that Ms. Ward is representative of Democrats and Independents who are dissatisfied with the ACA either because they are unaware of its contents or because it did not go far enough and include a public option. When we see polls that show a majority or plurality of those polled opposed to the new health care law we should keep in mind that it includes a significant sample of people who would change their views with more accurate information about it.

  • K in VA on December 06, 2011 11:07 AM:

    What is actually Obama's biggest problem with his base? What he hasn't done, or what he's done and bragged about enough for people to notice?

  • SYSPROG on December 06, 2011 11:08 AM:

    Thank you June!!! I often think of what Eric Alterman said after the election. 'We got hope and change, but it is up to US to make sure it happens.' I think too many voters thought Obama could do it all...by himself while we sat back and second guessed him.

  • RollaMo on December 06, 2011 11:15 AM:

    I tell my Republican colleagues to keep calling it Obamacare, because years down the road this will be accepted as one of his positive legacies. Of course they'll have short memories, just like all the naysayers (I talking to you Ghost of Ronald Reagan) when Medicare was passed in the 1960s.

  • Kevin Ray on December 06, 2011 11:27 AM:

    The comments on the original story site are downright chilling.

  • Basilisc on December 06, 2011 11:28 AM:

    So people only learn about what the ACA actually does when they get Stage 3 cancer?

    That speaks volumes about the atrocious failure of liberals and Democrats to spread the news about health reform. A gigantic missed opportunity - if the DNC had implemented a nationwide, fact-based PR campaign about what the new law actually does in spring-summer 2010 it would have prevented the GOP gains that November. In fact, it could have created a Democratic majority for a generation.

    Instead, Democrats are now reduced to playing defense and changing the subject. Incredible.

  • imjustsayin on December 06, 2011 11:51 AM:

    Why is it that FOX News, rightwing radio, etc., continue to get away with repeatingly making intentionally false statements regarding government policy. Mainstream outlets at least make on-air corrections when errors are reported. Facts are facts and the FCC should pursue penalities for outright lies like those FOX keeps making about the ACA. FOX's "Fair and Balanced" is neither just as the defunct "Moral Majority" was and they should be officially called out on it or be forced to drop "News" from their name.

  • square1 on December 06, 2011 12:22 PM:

    The problem with ACA is in its name: it is an Affordable Care Act that didnt make care affordable. You can argue that it has (or will) slow the rate of growth at which care continues to become unaffordable. But for the vast majority of Americans, the bill had no tangible positive effect on their insurance premiums.

    The polls do not reflect a failure of marketing but of policy. Good policy sells itself. Social Security remains immensely popular despite the fact that Republicans want to kill it and Democrats want to slash the benefits.

    If my insurance premiums were 25% lower each month following the passage of ACA then you wouldn't need marketing to make me a vocal champion of the legislation.

  • flyonthewall on December 06, 2011 12:26 PM:

    @square-only portions of the ACA have been enacted. Wait until 30 million plus people have to buy into the system.

  • Alli on December 06, 2011 1:06 PM:

    @Basilic: its a great commentary on the absolute lack of empathy or selfishness of people. She claims to have campaigned for Obama but apparently didn't think any thing he did was worthwhile until a crisis hit her own pocket and close to home.

    You can tell these people a million god damn times what the ACA contains. They tune out because they don't think they will need it and they don't care about others who currently need it.

    I will say that it doesn't help when liberals go around on tv and dismiss the plan because Republicans used to like or it doesn't contain the public option. Their behavior harmed ACA more than Democrats not promoting it enough.

  • Carl Weetabix on December 06, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Unfortunately I have to blame the Obama administration. I consider myself a pretty savvy follower of politics and policy and I have no idea what's in the bill. I can't imagine what the average American, who isn't politically OCD would think about the act.

    I think they sold this very badly and continue to sell this badly. Most people, including myself, just don't know how it benefits them or even really the needy for that matter.

  • RollaMo on December 06, 2011 1:34 PM:

    Google "health reform." First thing that pops up is the government website that explains it all. It's been there for a while. It's not that hard.

  • Jilli on December 06, 2011 2:04 PM:

    I believe that most of those railing against "Obamacare" have never suffered a major illness - and are fueled by a healthy dose of ignorance.

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 - now after two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and two surgeries, I'm well on my way to a full recovery and a long healthy life. I was lucky, I had insurance - in fact I had double coverage thanks to my husbands (evil) union. Every day I sat in that chemo chair my heart hurt for those who didn't have the benefit of insurance coverage. It's agonizing enough to deal with the illness and the treatments much less worry about how it's all going to be paid for. It really hurt my heart. Fortunately there's options now - and there's no fear of my ever going without coverage because of the legislation. All it takes is one major illness, and the value of this legislation is clear. I sleep easier knowing I have options - and I feel better knowing that the uninsured also have options. Most don't realize the impact because they've never been there.

    I just shake my head at the ignorance, but know that it's not a matter of if, but when - and those railing will also see the benefit.

  • Anonymous on December 06, 2011 2:04 PM:

    ObamaCares - Luv it!

    And FWIW, I just got my new premium rates for next year: Medical rates went DOWN a bit, but dental rates went up a bit.

  • SYSPROG on December 06, 2011 3:23 PM:

    Hey Carl Weetabix ? Why don't you blame the DEMOCRATS instead of reflexively blaming the 'Obama Administration'? CONGRESS passed it and then the Dems sat on their thumbs scared to tout how FABULOUS it was. This is not all Obama's fault but by gory, you have fallen right into the narrative. THAT'S what we're talking about!!!

  • June on December 06, 2011 3:30 PM:

    Great post, @Jilli. Godspeed on your continuing recovery.

  • schtick on December 06, 2011 3:51 PM:

    damn. That brought tears to my eyes. My brother was waiting for the few days when it would take effect, but didn't make it. I'm glad she did.

  • June on December 06, 2011 4:03 PM:

    So sorry to hear about your brother, @schtick. This whole conversation truly brings home to me the impact of the passage of ACA.

  • Alan Davidson on December 06, 2011 4:22 PM:

    Let me retort: Sure, she given the opportunity to buy insurance with an pre-existing condition. But she is most likely paying for a policy not State-run, but still underwritten by a private insurance company. And guess what? The expenses of her treatment will be far, far, far more than your premiums. And what will the insurance company do to cover those expenses? Raise premiums on everyone else....like me.

    Thank Obama? What did he do? Pay for it? NO! I did. And so did everyone else who pays for their insurance either through their employer, or like I do, through the private market.

    As for those who get theirs through their employer, her pre-existing condition health care costs were passed via higher premiums to employers for their plans. What happened then? Maybe they didn't hire any more folks. Maybe they laid off or fired others. Maybe they just passed on the higher costs to their customers or clients who then passed it on and on and on....

    She acts as if her new ObamaCare policy was FREE. It wasn't.

    As for those who pay through the private market, like me (I am self-employed), our premiums have skyrocketed since the "Affordable Care Act" (what irony!) was passed. The premiums I pay for my son and I have been raised THREE times since and the deductible raised by $1,000. Every time, (including just yesterday), it was announced via a letter in the mail and every time ObamaCare was mentioned as the reason for the increase.

    In addition, welcome to the world of "co-insurance"! What..... you never heard of it? Either did I five years ago. But now, in order to cover the costs of ObamaCare, the insurance companies not only have deductibles, but now "co-insurance". Mine was 20% and it was raised to 30%, which means that I have to pay 30% of the total bill if I have to have major surgery or be treated, for say, cancer. You? No co-insurance in your plan, huh?

    I looked up my premium for my state's pre-existing insurance plan as well. Affordable? I don't know what state you live in, but my policy would have been over $800 a month! You call that affordable?

    The problem is that ObamaCare is the unholy alliance of government and the private market. Guess who is getting rich off this? Insurance companies and drug companies, that's who.

    I believe we live in a republic. Your state could have had some sort of solution for you. And if they didn't, vote em' out. But folks like you want folks like me in another state to pay, indirectly for your care via a federal government dung pile like Obamacare.

    What is there not to like if you are a drug co. or insurance co.? Everyone now has to buy your product . And if costs rise, they pass it on to the rest of us. You think they are going to take in the shorts? You think they will take it out of their bottom line and profitability?

    Really? Let�s take a look at their stock prices and financial statements two years from now. How much you want to bet their value skyrockets?

    You want to thank someone for your healthcare? Thank the folks who are paying for it. Obama certainly isn't.

  • Werewolf on December 06, 2011 4:38 PM:

    @Alan Davidson-
    You're giving the best argument I know for "Medicare For All". Unfortunately, bought corporate shills (all the Republicans, and too many Democrats) made that a non-starter.
    We need to stop thinking of health "insurance" and start thinking about health *care*.

  • Neo on December 06, 2011 4:41 PM:

  • zandru on December 06, 2011 5:41 PM:

    "Spike Dolomite Ward! What a GREAT name!!!"

    Are you kidding? For a WOMAN? Her name just makes it easier for the wingnutters to demonize her as just another one of those lesbo libruls of the "butch" persuasion. Ewwww.

    Basically, her name is appealing to the librul choir and NOT to the folks who need convincing.

  • CJ on December 06, 2011 6:31 PM:


    If you believe that the cost of an uninsured person's healthcare was not already carried by all of us, your head is so far up your ass that it is cutting off the oxygen. Pull it together and stop living in the Republic of Dumbshits.

    Normally, I believe in civil discourse, but motherfucker please!

  • ctmom on December 06, 2011 6:38 PM:

    Is having pre-existing coverage really worth 2000+ pages of who the hell knows what?

  • Doug on December 06, 2011 8:07 PM:

    "Is having pre-existing(sic) coverage really worth 2000+ pages of who the hell knows what?" ctmom @ 6:38 PM

    True, the Bible does put it in fewer words: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", but the idea's the same.

  • exlibra on December 07, 2011 12:40 AM:

    Spike Dolomite Ward is no newcomer to how the government works.

    �How to Secure Large Grants for Schools� One-Day Workshop presented by Spike Dolomite Ward and Linda Vallejo -- Neo, @4:41 PM

    So? Perhaps it's her job? Navigating the grant system -- for whatever purpose, schools included -- is not easy. Our tiny Free Clinic employs 3 people (one full time) just to find and scramble for any money that'll help to keep us going. I know someone (at a private University, yet!), who has a whole d...d office full of people doing noting but searching and applying for grant money. If that's what Ward does, and if she's willing to teach others how to do it, more power to her. It doesn't, in any way, discredit either her or her story.

    Weak tea, Neo; you're slipping. And you forgot to check her out for granite kitchen counter tops, too. Better shape up, old fella; if you continue phoning it in like this, your masters will cut your pay *and* your health benefits, too.

  • espell on December 07, 2011 10:36 AM:

    The ACA is not perfect. I struggle with an individual plan that has gone up and up and up. But- some very promising parts have now taken effect; the medical loss ratio just yesterday went into effect. 80% of premiums must go to medical costs, if not, the overage must be rebated to policy holders. The pre-existing condition state plans are good even though they too are expensive and not everybody (me) can get them. If I could it would be significantly cheaper. But as i started to shop for a new individual plan, I realized that the preventative care provision has now taken effect. The yearly screenings that would have applied to my deductible are now covered at 100%. This gives me room to up the deductible and lower my premium. That reults in significant savings. But the real savings will come when we focus on the costs and quality which Berwick (sp?), the recess-appointed exiting CMS chief speaks so passionately and intelligently about. Check out the clip from the Up with Chris Hayes show. Bottom line is that when the ACA is fully implemented, it will be a big improvement to American healthcare.

  • Furiousd on December 07, 2011 3:39 PM:

    imjustsayin - they are an entertainment company plain and simple, they even won a court case for the exact nature you are detailing in which the ruling was that they are an "entertainment" venue.
    Alan Davidson- as another poster mentioned, we were all paying for so many other people's insurance already. One of the points of the Act, was to get people to be insured, and have decent health care "before" something happens and they go to the emergency room, where the end costs will be significantly higher than if they had had regular, preventative care, at an overall cheaper cost. If someone can see a doctor regularly, chances are they will not have these fully developed health crisis situations, which end up being a much greater cost to everybody. for some reason people don't get this. The suddenly think they are now paying for other people's insurance, without realizing they have been all along, and at a larger cost, and heaven forbid we should actually try to tweak that system to not only cut costs, but help people from getting suddenly, tragically ill.
    Also, is she named after the Italian Mountains? Middle name.

  • alix on December 08, 2011 12:08 AM:

    square1, I'm not sure what you're situation is. But here's mine:
    Pre ACA, I was paying $800/mo for utterly inadequate insurance ($10K deductible, to start with), which didn't cover treatment for my pre-existing condition. (I got the insurance before the diagnosis, and had to stick with it because no other insurer would give me a policy afterwards.)

    Now I qualify for the ACA pre-existing coverage, for less than half the premium of the other policy, 1/4 the deductible, and coverage for the condition.

    Just because this doesn't help you now doesn't mean it isn't "insuring" your future. What if you lose your job, say? What if your child turns 21? What if you get divorced and your spouse's job provided the coverage?

    But yes, we need to get the word out.

  • j on December 08, 2011 7:57 AM:

    To all of those who say they have no clue what is in the ACA I say it is your own fault, it was and probably still is on line, I read it at White House.gov. My next thought is after reading it (which I did ages ago) there is one paragraph which seems to let states opt out if they can insure all citizens more cost effectively , which I know Vermont is doing. they implement the full ACA as scheduled in 2014, then in 2017 they change, using the already set up framework, to a single payer insurance.
    So what will people do if the rethugs cancel it?