So I was talking to several people yesterday, middle class people of all ages, and the innocent subject of health care came up... and suddenly it was like a floodgate was let loose. They felt helpless and very personally indignant. And everyone had their own horror stories. Here are some quotes (as best as I recall them) that stuck in my mind:
1. "My kidney biopsy cost me $9000, and I had insurance. Why do we even have insurance?"
2. "Sure, I have a prescription plan, but it cost me $225 to see the doctor every time I need to get the prescription. It's a joke."
3. "I'll start paying off my student loan as soon as I can finish paying off my bill for my broken shoulder."
4. "I can't switch insurance because the new company won't cover my existing condition. I think I'm going to just go without insurance next year. Hell, I can't afford the copay any more than I can afford the operation anyhow."
5. "I had good insurance one year, much better than my husband's... but when my child needed an operation, the insurance company said they would only honor my husband's insurance! They said their rule was that they only applied to the child the insurance policy of the parent whose birthdate was closest to January 1. I couldn't believe it. I raised hell but it was a "rule" they said. There was nothing they would do."
6. "The hospital billed me $18,000 for an overnight stay. Eighteen thousand dollars! Just for overnight. What could possibly be worth that?!"
7."I thought we were supposed to have the best system in the world. If you're rich, I guess."
I realized yesterday that we have got to fix this problem. It's reaching the breaking point. And a candidate with a good, strong plan for Universal Health Care could really ride it into the White House. I now agree with those who think it will be the defining issue of the 2008 campaign.
I'll leave it up to the citizens to suggest what they would do. All I'll say is that the "$100 gas rebate"-type solutions from the Republicans won't work for health care (or for gas) and everyone knows it. (If it were up to me, I'd have the government to offer a heavily subsidized health insurance plan that almost anyone could afford. Nobody would be forced to take it but the mere existence of such an option would force insurance companies to be more competitive. But I'm open to other ideas, like the Mass. plan.)