Surprise!! Jeb Bush publicly endorses Obamaphones for everyone!!*
*(OK, that's snark)
Hey, remember this Nontroversy from 2012?
For a few hours yesterday, the top link on the Drudge Report led to a YouTube video in which an Ohio woman said she's going to vote for President Obama because he gave her a phone. The woman is inarticulate and she speaks loudly, and on top of those things she's black. Basically, she is exactly the kind of person many on the right envision—wrongly, it should be said—when they think of who is guzzling from the government teat these days. That she was bragging about Obama giving "every minority in Cleveland" luxuries like cell phones was just the icing on the cake.
Of course, it turns out that the "Obamaphone" brouhaha was, to put it mildly, a wee bit exaggerated (and the program was actually started by Ronald Reagan):
Though we can't be positive which government program the woman from the video is referencing without interviewing her, it does appear that she's talking about the FCC's Lifeline Assistance benefit. Owing to the fact that people generally need phones to apply for jobs and enroll their children in school, and elderly citizens need to be able to call their families and emergency services, the government decided in the '80s (under Ronald Reagan, no less) to institute the Lifeline Assistance program. In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act into law, which offered either cell phones or landline services to low-income Americans.
Today, 38 states, one of which is Ohio, participate in the Lifeline program. If you live in one of those locales and your income is at or below 135 percent of the poverty line, or if you qualify for certain benefit programs like Medicaid and TANF, you can apply for a free cell phone that offers you 250 minutes of talk time per month. The people who are getting these phones aren't getting iPhones or other smartphones; they're often people in urban or rural areas who are being supplied with basic cell phones so they can call the hospital when they're sick, or receive calls if there's a problem with their child at school.
So, why am I bringing this up today?
Well, here's Jeb "The Smart One" Bush in Tempe, Arizona yesterday, explaining his solution to healthcare coverage for people once he, as President (oh, wait, he's not officially running yet!) has successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act:
In Tempe, the Republican presidential hopeful told an audience that he wants to “repeal Obamacare” and replace it with some kind of “consumer-driven” system – a popular phrase among GOP politicians, which no doubt polled well in focus groups. Bush then explained his vision for his new Apple Watch fits into his health care vision:
“On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible. I’ll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there’ll be a wireless, there’ll be, someone will send me a signal. It’ll come here, I’ll get a double beep saying, ‘You just ate a butterscotch sundae’ or something like that. ‘You went way over the top. You’re a diabetic, you can’t do that,’ whatever.
“We’ll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy. And ultimately, we have to get to a health system, away from a disease system.”
As both MSNBC's Steve Benen as well as Daily Kos's Joan McCarter note:
For a "policy wonk" and the "smart one" there are some pretty basic problems here. First off, the Apple Watch doesn't come automatically equipped with a bunch of "someones" who are there just to monitor his blood sugar and make the device go beep. He needs an actual doctor who has evaluated his health, and his diabetes, who will give him the information he needs to make that device work for him. In order to see that doctor he needs, guess what!, health insurance. Which millions of people will lose if Obamacare is repealed like he wants it to be.
Furthermore, as wonderful as the Apple Watch may be, it also starts at $349.00 for the "Sport" model. As McCarter rightly notes:
If you can't afford health insurance—and millions can't without some assistance like, say, Obamacare—then you sure as hell can't afford a personal health-tracking device.
OK, so Jeb Bush said something completely idiotic (well, something else, anyway). Still, what does that have to do with the "Obamaphone" silliness 3 years ago?
Well, there's one other thing that both Benen and McCarter forgot to mention:
Set up your Apple Watch
To get started with your Apple Watch, pair and sync it with your iPhone.
Before you begin
To use your Apple Watch, you'll need to pair it with an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 8.2 or later. You can pair one Apple Watch to your iPhone at a time.
Yes, that's right. As amazing as Apple's newest electronic gizmo is (and yes, I'm a long-time Apple/Mac fanboy), the fact remains that for now, at least, you also need to have a newer-model iPhone on hand in order for the Watch to even work. It doesn't have to be a brand-new model; Apple says it'll work with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6 or 6+.
Used iPhone 5 models are going for around $130 on eBay at the moment, which I guess isn't too bad. So, you're up to a minimum of $480 (plus tax) to stop yourself from going into a diabetic coma or insulin shock, assuming you have a magical doctor who's willing to test, monitor and send you blood sugar text messages on a regular basis, free of charge.
However, to use that iPhone, you also have to have some sort of data service; this appears to start at around $25 per month for prepaid plans. So, you're up to $780 for the first year (and at least $300/year after that)...again, assuming your doctor is willing to treat patients who own Apple Watches and iPhones at no charge, which I suspect is pretty rare.
The logical takeaway of all this is that as far as I can tell, Republican former Florida Governor and not-officially-running Presidential Candidate Jeb "Terri Schiavo" Bush has just openly called for 8-14 million poor/working-class Americans to receive a free iPhone (and possibly a free Apple Watch, although that part was a bit fuzzy) as his replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps I misunderstood him.
I admit that, if true, this is a rather surprising development. I wonder how the Drudge Report will spin it?
To be fair, Bush is correct that the Apple Watch and other similar devices do have tremendous potential for streamlining/improving healthcare and medical treatment, and no doubt 5 years from now they'll be even more capable. Hell, you may not even need to pair the watch with a phone for the 2nd or 3rd model. However, as Benen notes:
If someone slips on the ice and hurts their leg, I’m sure a smart watch can tell that person all kinds of fascinating information, but eventually, the watch should also say, “You need medical attention.”
And when that person goes to the hospital, he or she will need some health coverage to afford the visit.
All snark aside, however, Democratic Congresswoman and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has the final word:
.@jebbush I had cancer. There’s no app for that.
— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) May 15, 2015