Saturday, February 27, 2010

The great American lie - you have health insurance.

The biggest barrier to universal health coverage for the United States is the commonly held belief that their own health care will suffer if a public option is available. This is like saying that your drive to work will be impaired if there is public transportation. That's silly. In fact, your drive to work is safer with public transportation. Public transportation means less cars on the road and if you loose your car you can still get to work. In this analogy there may be occasion where the public transportation is even better or more cost-effective than driving your own car. But, you have a choice. Without the option of public transport you have no choice. And that is what health care is like now.

If you are fortunate enough to be over 65 and have Medicare you have one of the best insurances there is. You know this because your congressional representative is using it right now. There are options to opt-out into a private system. There are plenty of insurance companies who are very eager to take that Medicare money and give you their plan - it's called a "carve-out". The problem is their plan sucks. I know, I deal with those individuals who would normally have very attractive insurance (Medicare) for us health care providers. But, when they need services, the carve-outs provide very little service or deny service completely. They promise you that they are more efficient and cost less than Medicare (co-pays and such) but they take out a profit from that piece of Medicare pie and are constantly looking for ways to squeeze more out of you. "No, sir. That medication your doctor prescribed is not covered. Neither is that hospital. You will have to pay the whole costs out of pocket." If you take away nothing else from this, please know that Medicare is gold as insurance. Never sign over your Medicare insurance to a private company, never let loved ones do it either.

Until you get Medicare, you do not have insurance. What you have is health care that is held over you by the whim of your employer. The percentage of the population covered by employer-based health insurance has fallen every year since 2000, from 64.2% to 59.3% (US Census Bureau statistic). Your company could decide tomorrow to stop offering it, put the entire cost in your lap (which you may or may not be able to afford), or shut its doors. What about you leaving the company? Many people are tied to jobs they hate for health care reasons. Do you get benefits via your spouse? What about a divorce? Too many variables, too much uncertainty. This doesn't sound like insurance to me.