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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Health Care Reform

I’m lucky, I have insurance. My employer actually offers me a choice of plans to choose from, and I’ve opted for the most comprehensive. We use it. It hasn’t always been this way.

I can count at least four of my friends off the top of my head that aren’t covered by health insurance. Even more that aren’t covered enough. Some of them have health problems that go untreated. They have no choice. They live in pain and suffering. They’re not as lucky. If I could lend them some of my coverage, I would. It’s a major source of financial hardship for them. They forgo things I take for granted. Things like vacation, dining out, food, clothing, medical prescriptions and treatment.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Why Reform Matters

Each year I watch my medical coverage eat away at my paycheck. Each year it takes a larger portion. Fewer employers are offering coverage. Others are scaling coverage back. Some are dropping coverage. This trend is going to continue.

Eventually, I will be able to count more and more of my friends as unlucky. Many of their employers, if they offer coverage at all, don’t give a choice of plans to choose from. Many of my friends coverage scales back year after year.

Of those that are covered, a major illness, surgery or disease puts them into a lot of debt. These are people with insurance. The trend is going to continue.

Each year over 21% of the federal budget or $762 billion FY 2007 – 2.4% of GDP goes to health care. It keeps growing – in 2009 Americans will spend $2.5 trillion on health care with over a third of that spending done by the government. The projections say that it’s going to get worse, much worse if we do nothing, with estimates of $4 trillion by 2017 if it’s just business as usual with no reform. These are not Democratic projections, but non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections.

It Affects Us All

I used to own a small business. For the first few years, I couldn’t afford coverage for myself or my employees; I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I do feel like it is an obligation for businesses to offer health insurance to their workers and as soon as I could afford it I did.

Before that could happen a major illness hit our family. We needed surgery. We paid list price for it. We went into debt, but we were lucky, we found a way to pay for it. This thing occurs every year and people have to file for bankruptcy to get out of it. This benefits no one, those without insurance get chained with a bankruptcy, and those with insurance have premiums go up to cover the loss. We are already paying for the uninsured.

Health Care Reform affects us all whether we’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent or Tea Partier. We may not want to acknowledge that, but it does. If someone is uncovered, they delay treatment, it gets worse, they go to the emergency room, ruin their credit report and the insured pay for it. Our insurance premiums increase to help cover the losses created by the uninsured. No one is exempt.

If you’re employed and want the American Dream, owning your own business, being your own boss, you face it. You will find out the true cost of health insurance, not from an employee’s view, but from the reality of the employer. You will find out how much of your company’s income is wiped out to cover insurance costs. You’ll see how tough it is to get covered, since you’ll be unable to join a group. You’ll pay top dollar for a lesser coverage, if you can afford to pay at all.

Looking at this is from a business point of view, medical insurance is costing American companies a lot of money. Bringing down the cost of insurance will help control and reduce costs of businesses big and small. It affects both the employers and the employees equally, the white and the blue collar. It’s effects are already universal.

Without health care reform Americans suffer. You lose choice – choice to switch jobs in some cases, choice to start a business. You find yourself in the unlucky category.

It’s Moral Issue, A Right?

There is a a lot of talk of morals and rights. Republicans are quick to fly the morality flag on abortion coverage, but reluctant to fly that same flag on the morality of health care coverage as a human right. If your Christian, ask yourself that question, what would Jesus do? There have been much commentary on this, my favorite in this USA Today opinion piece.

I do believe that Health Care, even Universal Health Care is a moral obligation, but I understand not everyone shares my view. Whatever the case, we need to do something, even if it’s not universal.

Have you heard fear mongering about death panels? Not passing comprehensive health care reform is a death panel – in a way. Uninsured people are dying because of lack of affordable coverage. They lack treatment. They cannot afford prescriptions. They have medical conditions that are easily treatable get worse. They end up needing more expensive care in the end. What would those opposed to reform do, start refusing treatment? Start throwing people out on the street?

It Will Cost Us Way Too Much

So what it comes down to in the end for many is cost. The CBO says that the current bill in Congress will save us money. That’s it, we should do it. Let’s face it, the economy’s bad and we need to save money. If we don’t, we will lose money. Sounds simple enough to me, let’s end the argument here.

Will it make our premiums go up? If uninsured people get covered they get preventative care. That will cause our premiums to go down. We’re paying for them already, just through the back door. Let’s get it through the front door, so they can stop emergency room visits and use clinics, which cost less, to lower costs for those of us with insurance.

It’s An Imperfect Bill

The bill isn’t perfect, no bill is. You say we shouldn’t do comprehensive reform? We need a comprehensive fix. Let the small fixes others are asking for improve this bill when power shifts the other way. There is certainly room for improvement: limiting liability in lawsuits, lower prescription drug costs and much more. But we have to start someplace. We need to do something.

When President Bush entered the White House we were suffering an energy crisis. It was the crisis of that time. He left with an economic crisis and a healthcare crisis. President Obama is trying to tackle both. Why do we need to address the healthcare crisis now? Because healthcare is our economic crisis. It’s a large part of our economy. You can’t fix one without the other – at least in the long term. I really don’t care which party fixes it, but it needs to be fixed. The GOP didn’t fix it in the eight years Bush was in the White House and the GOP had control of the hill. Obama is showing bravery and spending political capital in trying to do this now.

If we do nothing, we will have our economy sucked into health care. More and more of your paycheck, more and more of our taxes. We need to do something before it’s too late. It will hurt us all to wait another four years.

If health care reform passes, it won’t be finished. It won’t take a single bill or a single piece of legislation, no matter which party puts it forward. It will take many pieces of reform in an incremental fashion if we don’t scrap the entire system and start over. We will be facing this bill by bill for several years to come. Could we scrap the whole system and start over? Doubtful – that’s real job loss.

Imagine Yourself Without Insurance

Next time you go to the doctor or pharmacy, imagine yourself without insurance. Do you know how much your doctor’s visit costs? Look at your benefits statement. Then look at the column or line that shows the discount or adjustment your insurance company did for the service. Without that adjustment, without that discount, you now know how much a person without insurance pays. You’re one of the lucky ones. You get a discount. Do you know how much your prescription actually costs, not just the co-pay? That is what someone without insurance faces. The most needy people of our society pay the highest cost. It’s sick how we screw the sick.

I count myself lucky. I have insurance. I haven’t always. I’ve been stuck paying full price. I was able to pull it off – once. If we hadn’t gotten insurance right away and gotten beyond the 12 months it took for our pre-existing condition to lapse, I would have lost my house and been bankrupt. I was a business owner. People would have lost their jobs.

But I Have Insurance – It Doesn’t Effect Me

Now imagine for a moment you have insurance. You son or daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia or some other disease. You find out that you have to cover the first $5,000 of treatment every year and you make $50,000 a year. You have house payments. You have bills. Next you find out you have a yearly cap. Then you find out you have a lifetime cap. What do you do, try and find a new job? Hope that the next insurance company doesn’t deny you coverage based on your pre-existing condition?

This is the reality of health insurance in America today. It must change. Don’t wait to find out you thought you were lucky – and covered, to find out you’re unlucky – and not covered anymore. Don’t wait for your employer to drop your coverage or diminish it next year, or the year after because of rising costs. How far can your paycheck drop because the employer can’t cover the increase in cost? Do something now, please, for America and for all of us.

This article has an update with the current debate: The Great Healthcare Debate: The Personal Mandate v Broccoli.

Further reading:

2 comments:

  1. This is as well-researched as it is written. Very clear and compelling. You appeal to people's humanity and good sense! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ditto to what you & the lovely Saumya said.
    Your passion for compassion is logical, supported and well-stated. Well done =)

    ReplyDelete