Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Universal Health Care II

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.)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that any real solution would require the virtual abolition of private health care insurance. I've read a lot about how health economists think that any effective will have to include manditory participation in order to take best advantage of economies of scale etc. That would mean everyone joins a single plan (or small set of plans), managed by the government. That would mean no more of the private insurance companies getting rich by pulling "rules" out of thin air whenever some child needs an operation.

But of course that won't happen. These industries are so rich that it would take a massive left wing victory in an election or two to make a difference.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

The majority of Americans have health insurance and are afraid of any changes, because they believe they will result in higher taxes and/or loss of benefits.

The secret is small business. They not only have to compete with big business for benefits, which substantially raises the cost of hiring the marginal employee, but are charged more b/c they lack the bargaining power of big business. Small businessmen will benefit mightily by being able (free of charge) to offer medical insurance. The solution is to restore tax levels to what they were in the late 1990s boom (surely no problem with those levels for the economy!) and use the $$ to fund universal health insurance. Private insurance companies will have to convert to being like banks making student loans.

I suspect that the federal government is the wrong vehicle for this, however. Each state should take a whack at it, because each state has different needs. CA's urban problems are different than MS's rural ones. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Government-based health insurance may be more widespread than most people think. As of 2004, the U.S. Census bureau estimates that 59.8% of the population had employer-based health insurance, 9.2% had bought private health insurance, and 27.2% had government-based health insurance (includes medicare, medicaid, military health insurance, etc.) Note, however, that only 16.2% had no coverage whatsoever: there is double counting among the statistics, as some people have multiple insurance sources.)

Private health insurance premiums continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to a Reuters (May 6, 2006) Medline article, the average individual health insurance premium jumped from $2450 to $3500 from 1998 to 2006. By 2006, 20% of employees now opt out of their employers' insurance plans, up from 15% in 1998. And according to another article, 20% of working-age adults now have medical debts to pay off.

And having insurance is no longer a yes/no issue. For example, more than half of all young adults (18-29) went without insurance for at least one month in the 2002-2003 period, and a quarter had none at all. The 84% counted as having some form of insurance includes those who only have partial coverage for only part of the year--so underinsurance is a real problem too.

There is some regional variation that might support LTG's point. While 16+% are uninsured in the U.S., the rate is 8.5% in New England compared to 25% in the "West South Central" States (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas).

Anonymous said...

One thing that I think might help would be labor unions, but they'd have to restructure. Rather than organizing by trade, why not by individual. So, if I am willing to pay dues to a union, why shouldn't I be able to take advantage of the rights and protections that unions offer, such as representation and medical benefits? The pool of participants would grow and thus, the discount on medical coverage would be bigger.

Or, as my friend pointed out, why can't a group of like minded people form a group to bargain like a small business? It could be like credit union, but for medical insurance.

Either way, it would take a lot of individuals actining in unision to make such a scheme work. But it is fun to think about.

I agree with Strangelove. It is a huge issue. And hiding on the the underside of the issue is big pharma and big insurance.
 

// posted by USWest

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