Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 1, 2009

Thinking about health care reform

So… here I sit nursing my mouth from a recent dental procedure.  (That’s a euphemism…like Disney’s version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.)  I was following the dentist’s orders to not do anything strenuous, so I was sitting listening to the news.  There was a news story on townhall meetings about health care reform. There were people shouting and holding signs about how they don’t want a government option/single payer/big brother health care option.  I sighed.  I shook my head…not a good idea.  It hurt.

I couldn’t believe how vehemently these people were protesting against changing the existing system to INCLUDE (not mandate) a public option in the proposed reforms.  It made me think.

How many people have health care through their employers?  How many people have been paying mounting co-pays through their employers? How many people have been frustrated with being informed by their insurance that the procedures or medication they need aren’t covered or won’t be soon?  How many people have been taking jobs that DON’T have health care benefits?  Answer: Lots.

And then there’s the bigger question: How many people have thought about whether they will soon lose their benefits?

For the record, I have been working for the last several years at jobs that didn’t provide health care to me or my family.  I have worked in part-time jobs since having my daughter back in 1994, mostly at small businesses.  Most part-time jobs do not offer health benefits.  During conversations with the president of the company I worked at for 5 years, he really wanted to offer benefits, but he couldn’t afford to offer benefits to his temporary, part-time, or seasonal workers.  He could just afford to cover the 5 salaried people in the company.  I totally sympathized with him.  He is a really decent human being who cares about his workers, but he was looking at how to keep his company profitable and survive.

When I got a full time job last year, I was finally offered health benefits (no dental, no vision) through a high deductible plan linked with a health care savings account.  Basically, that meant  I would pay a high deductible before the plan started to cover part of the costs.  I could set up deductions from my pay to go to the account and then use that account to pay for my deductibles and co-pays.  Problem: until I had payed $3000, I would be paying all the costs out of pocket before I started to get 80% of the costs covered through the insurance company.  Woo hoo.   Most of the employees were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to afford the plan.  And folks, they were mostly young (under 30) with low living costs and disposable income.  How many of us can pay, oh let’s say $300 per health issue  (generally a doctor visit, tests, prescription)?  There would be 10 visits in a year before it would be a good way to have coverage.

Luckily for me, knock on wood, I get coverage through my husband’s health benefits.  And we pay a really reasonable co-pay/portion to get family coverage.  But we have had our portion steadily increase in the last 10 years.  Some of the increase has been directly related to people in his company having health problems…heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer.  What we are expecting is that, although his company is wonderful and does its best for its employees, those costs will increase in such a way that it becomes a problem for the company to offer benefits.

Looking at my last job situation, if I had taken the benefits, today I would in trouble.  (Again, that is a Disney-fied euphemism.)  Because I no longer work there, I would have had to go on COBRA or found an affordable  individual health care plan.  Easier said than done, as many people know.

Oh…I shouldn’t be so self centered.  It’s not all about me, me, me.

I should mention that my parents and in-laws and elderly friends are all struggling with covering their health care costs.  And these are people who worked for over 30 years in service to the public and business world.  I should remember the young co-workers at that last job.  I should think of my friend who is a single mother of two, who is currently unemployed.  I should think of the cafe owner in my neighborhood who has great employees.  I should think of my neighbors.

Now, I know that the government is not known for being efficient at monitoring cost.  I also know that insurance companies are businesses that are about making profit.  I know that employers (large and small) are looking at reducing costs, including not offering health benefits or offering unaffordable benefits.  I know that Medicare is cutting benefits.  I know that families are struggling with health costs.

I know that the current system is not working.

I know that something has to change.

What will we do about the many people who will lose their benefits and won’t be able to find affordable health insurance although right now they are protesting a public option?

Something has to change.

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