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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Politics: Health Care


There are lots of voices out there ululating their viewpoints on the topic of health care reform. As our President has pointed out repeated, those who LIKE their existing health coverage are free to stay with it. If an insurance company can't compete against a government healthcare option the way DHL or UPS compete against the USPS, then they're probably not a very efficient company and we should allow the free market to push them out of existence. Competition is healthy, it's good for the consumer, and we all benefit from it.

Meanwhile, here are some of the points from the new health care reform legislation that President Obama is seeking to implement. Please look at them carefully and ask yourself whether your existing health care provides these protections, and if it does not, whether you would benefit from these protections.
  • No Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions

    This means that insurance companies cannot refuse you coverage because of your medical history. If you know anything about your medical plan, then you know that most insurance companies will not insure those who have pre-existing conditions, and those that will charge exorbitant rates. This is because most health insurance companies are for-profit entities and their CEO salaries are exorbitantly high. That money has to come from somewhere. Guess what, it's coming from you. If you have an illness that will cost more money to treat than you can pay in premiums (cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes), the insurance company will not make a profit from your premiums, or not enough of a profit to pay their CEO $23 million a year just in salary (remember, s/he gets a bonus, a pension, lifetime healthcare, and a ton of other benefits, so his/her real compensation package is much larger than the annual salary.

  • No Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays

    A yearly cap will be set on how much the insurance companies can charge consumers for out-of-pocket expenses. Currently, most plans force the consumer to pay between $10 and $50 for each visit to the doctor and might well pay more for each prescription filled. If you're unlucky enough to have a "co-insurance" plan, the cost of a doctor's visit is much higher, as it's based on a percentage of the fee, and your share is the larger portion of whatever the fee is. A family of four, under their employer-provided or self-provided insurance coverage, could easily run up several thousands in co-pays. As for deductibles, most dental coverage limits dental work to a few thousand a year, and for orthodontia, to several thousand for life. If you've got two kids and are paying for orthodontia and regular dental, medical, prescription, and opthalmological, you're in a bad bind. The orthodontia limits alone will eat up your savings. $5K for a lifetime limit on orthodontia will barely cover one kid's braces. So, how can you lose with this protection? Answer: you can't.

  • No Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care

    Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics. Think about it, folks. We all know (and if you don't, you ought to) that diseases like cancer and diabetes are diseases of old age. The older you get, the higher your chance of contracting one or both. We all also know that the earlier you treat any disease, the less it costs to treat. If you can do a lumpectomy on a suspicious breast lump, it's a hella lot cheaper than performing a double mastectomy, complete with anesthesia costs and hospital stay. Regular checkups are essential as preventive medicine. We are a nation of potential diabetics, and if blood is regularly tested as preventative for diabetes, consumers can learn early enough about proper diet and exercise to prevent or at least slow insulin resistance. That is MUCH less expensive than catching diabetes by the time someone is forty pounds overweight and firmly in its throes, and shows up at the doctor because they can no longer avoid the expensive visit.

  • No Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill

    Insurance companies cannot drop, or water down coverage for, those who become seriously ill. Remember Nataline Sarkisyan. Once they found out the girl would need a liver transplant to stay alive, the insurance company dawdled until she died. Don't worry about President Obama's "death panels." Because your insurance company already has one for you. Worry about that.

  • No Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage

    Insurance companies cannot set annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive. Think about this one. If you die before you reach your 50s, you don't need to worry about a "lifetime cap." But if you're hoping to stay alive to see your grandchildren, or even your children, for a little while more, you're going to go through expensive health crises. You're going to need joint replacement, you're probably going to suffer from some sort of cancer, you might well get a degenerative disease like diabetes or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. The older you are, the higher your chances. No matter how "good" your current health care plan is, it already HAS a cap, or a rider that says you're on your own if you get any of these problems. There are 11 million American cancer patients who have no health coverage. Don't be one of them. Support the public option, if only to protect yourself and your loved ones in case the worst happens.


  • Extended Coverage for Young Adults

    Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26. This is a no-brainer if you're paying for your kids' college. Did you know that many employers are "cutting costs" by going through their employees' records to find out if any of them were using the employer-provided health care to cover their children over the age of 18? Yes, they're going to make you pay back any of that money on the grounds that you committed fraud. Chances are, they'll then find a way to ease you out of employment if they can, leaving you to try and get your own damn insurance, which is so unlikely if you've "committed insurance fraud" by trying to keep your kids healthy. Also, despite Bible Spice's yawping about her disabled kid, as any parent who has a child with ongoing health problems knows, employer-provided health care will not cover that child once they turn a certain age, as determined by the insurer. What do you do if you have an autistic child, or a kid with Down's? If they're covered through age 26, you get at least eight years or more of relief from the expensive alternatives.

  • Guaranteed Insurance Renewal

    Insurance companies must renew your policy as long as you pay the premium in full. They cannot refuse to renew because you, or your dependents, became sick. If you've been paying your premiums, why the hell should they be able to suddenly stop insuring you? Many of us have paid insurance premiums for thirty or forty years, only to suddenly be told that the company will not renew. Why? Because after taking between $200 and $2,000 of your money every month for thirty years, they figure you're going to start costing them more than you already paid for their CEO's gold-trimmed toilet. So suddenly, you're out on your ass. Is this what you want, for yourself, your kids, your grandma? Hell, no. I mean, HELL, no.
If you think your insurance company is going to take care of you, fine. Stick with them, give them your money, nobody's going to stop you. But if you want some real protection from companies that could yank your insurance like Blue Cross/Blue Shield did for Cynthia Campbell, or CIGNA did for Nataline Sarkisyan, then get behind the public option and fight until it's implemented.

This is no laughing matter. If you're young and healthy now, here's some news for you: that won't last forever. Sooner or later, you're going to need some major healthcare. If you're unlucky and get in an accident, it's gonna be sooner. Read the research. Google is your friend. Look around and see how many people have a car crash and suddenly find that their health insurance won't pay for their ride to the hospital in an ambulance because they "failed to notify the company" that they were injured, in a coma, unable to speak, or whatever the hell else happened to them. Read about Cynthia Campbell. Read about Nataline Sarkisyan. Then do the right thing. Call Max Baucus and Charles Grassley (or write or email them). Tell them they'd better get the public option available for people like you and me and everyone else who needs it. Tell them you want it NOW.

Go here and educate yourself on what the proposed bill will do to help you. You owe it to yourself and to the people you love. It is a shame and a disgrace that a little girl has to die so some greedbag, who could pay for what she needed out of his pocket change, wants his profits more than her life.

According to Paul Krugman, lack of health insurance kills 27,000 Americans each year. Do you want their blood on your hands? If not, then learn about what your politicians are doing, make sure they do the right thing, and fight like hell to get it done. It's your duty as a citizen in a democracy to participate. A democracy is only as strong as its citizens. If Iraqi and Afghani citizens can risk their lives for their democracy, you can risk missing a couple of hours worth of television.


Stumble It!


At 8:03 PM, Blogger Sungold said...

This is an excellent - and infuriating - post. I almost vomited when I read that 11 million cancer patients are uninsured. This was partly self-interest because my husband (two-time survivor of two different, unrelated cancers) has surely nibbled deep into his lifetime max, and he's just 51. And partly I am just appalled that *anyone* could face the stress of cancer not knowing how to pay for it.

Well, actually, we sort of had that experience, since my guy got sick in Germany, our insurance was here in the U.S., and while he was hospitalized I couldn't reach a doctor for love or money, but the finance department called me twice daily demanding cash up front. Like we just had $20-30 K lying around. If our parents couldn't have helped, he'd have been ejected from the hospital. And that was in Germany.

This is not settling my stomach. So I'll just say thanks for this excellent series of posts. Hope your own medical adventures are fading into memory ...

At 9:26 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Good grief! I'm so sorry to hear about your poor husband. Long life and good health to him, as we say in my country. Poor dude. Yes, my medical adventures are well behind me, although I can still expect some eight months or so of pain in varying degrees. Still, it ain't life-threatening, and if it ain't gonna kill ya, what's to complain?

I'm working up the furiousity to make one or more hella ass-kicking posts. This subject is starting to keep me awake at night, and frankly, if it interferes with my sleep, it's ass-kicking time.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Good support by you
i really Appreciate
your efforts
Good Health care Tips


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