Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Answers to Questions on Health Care Reform

It never ceases to amaze how ignorance is fostered regarding political issues. Rather than quoting talking points and passing around emails that make sweeping and incorrect generalizations, lets make the effort to help people get educated with facts.

What is health care reform actually about?

Health care reform is actually about changing the way that insurance companies are permitted to write contracts between themselves and their clients. Currently there are only a few major health insurance companies in the United States and they write over 90% of the health coverage available to private individuals, unions, corporations and small businesses. Since there are only just these few writing most of the coverage and interstate competition is not allowed in most cases, many health insurers can and do charge whatever they wish for their policies. Over the past few years the cost of purchasing health insurance has increased about 42%. As a result, many employers have opted to begin charging employees for a portion of the cost of health insurance in their pay checks.

What does it mean when we hear about hidden costs in health care?

Health insurance companies have opted in many instances to begin to charge policyholders large deductibles and co-insurance to lower the payouts they make to policy holders. This has dramatically increased the real cost of health care for the average person. For example, a routine recommended preventative procedure, like a colonoscopy at age 50, now has a new feature - co-insurance under Empire Blue Cross of over $800.00. That is what the patient pays when they do have health insurance. If they don't have health insurance the cost for the procedure is about $3500.00. The alternative, of course, is not to have the procedure at all, thereby increasing the risk of developing cancer later in life.

What does the new legislation say about insurance policy changes?

The legislation before congress will change the way that insurance companies are permitted to write policies, eliminating much of the large deductibles and co-insurance payments. Wellness visits will be encouraged and preventative medicine as well. There are some who would like to add a clause to this legislation that would pay bonuses to Doctors whose patients adopt healthier lifestyles, for example: quitting smoking, losing weight, less alcohol consumption and so on. These are areas known to decrease the chances for chronic disease later in life. Additionally, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny claims for "pre-existing" conditions as a result of this legislation.

Who are the ones against health insurance reform?

These issues are agreed upon by both sides of the aisle. The only ones truly interested in defeating the health care legislation are the insurance companies!! They are the ones making billions in profit while many average Americans go bankrupt due to the overwhelming cost of health care even with insurance.

What happens if no health insurance reform is passed?

Think about the co-insurance you might have to pay if you developed cancer... could you afford to pay 20% of the cost of a few hundred thousand dollars of treatments and hospitalizations? Would you go bankrupt? Or would you opt not to have the treatments? Those are the current choices facing many Americans who are sick and already have health insurance.

What are insurance companies doing to stop health care reform from passing?

The insurance companies are spending over $1,400,000.00 every day to lobby congress - both Republicans and Democrats - to defeat this legislation. That means donating money to their campaign for re-election funds. And where does that money come from? Your premiums!! Don't be fooled by rhetoric that "seems" to be coming from politicians... it's not. It's coming from paid lobbyists who are incredibly skilled at public relations and do this full time for a living!! Get informed. Don't allow yourself to be blinded by rage fueled by lobbyists paid by insurance companies... they get paid to disseminate misinformation, don't do it for free!!

Finally, what's all the talk about a public option? What is the purpose of a public option?

A public option is to bring sorely needed competition into the health insurance market. Some of the major costs associated with doing business are marketing, advertising and lobbying. They consume a very large portion of a company's budget. Public health insurance will have no such overhead allowing the cost of running a public plan to be much lower, passing the savings onto the consumer and bringing down prices in the health insurance market. This is clearly why the health insurance companies are diametrically opposed to a public option being included in any health care reform. It would serve to lower costs, reduce overhead and limit profits. It should be noted that at one time Blue Cross was a non-profit health insurer. It's service was excellent and it's costs low. Now it is Empire Blue Cross and no longer non-profit. In the process, the quality of the coverage offered has deteriorated markedly, and the price has sky rocketed.

Why do folks fear a government run health care program?

The rhetoric suggests that the government will dictate how your doctor can perform his duties. This flies in the face of the fact that the American Medical Association fully supports health care reform. Remember, health care reform is about reforming the health insurance industry. People have been told that the government is encouraging folks to have a Living Will and Health Care Proxy, and that these will be instruments that will cause the elderly to die earlier. This is nonsense. Living Wills and Health Care Proxies allow us to choose how we want our end of life decisions handled, and who will make those decisions for us if we cannot do so. We write a Living Will and Health Care Proxy while we are healthy, so that our desires will be met. All persons should have a Living Will and Health Care Proxy written with the advice of an estate planning attorney.

What is it that people fear about a public option?

Many older Americans fear losing their medical coverage to a public option. Medicare is the public option. Others fear that companies and unions will opt out of private health insurance, selecting instead the public option to save money. These same folks fear that this will eventually lead to a single payer system where private insurance disappears all together. This fear is unfounded. As long as there is profit to be made in any industry, there will be demand and supply.

Is the government capable of running a large health insurance option well?

Congress employs thousands of people, not just in elected office but as staff. They all have excellent health care - government run health care. Our military has excellent health care, some say the best in the country - government run health care. The Veterans Administration has received highest marks for the quality of their health care. They also have some of the lowest costs - no marketing, advertising or lobbying - again, government run health care. Here we have four excellent examples of how government is already capable of doing something very well: Veterans Administration, the military, Congress and Medicare. All examples of government run health care, each of which works very well for millions of Americans.

What are the statistics about Americans wanting health care reform?

All the polling has show that over 80% of Americans want health care reform. That is the largest number of Americans agreeing on almost any issue in the last sixty years. Our congress must act to produce a bill that creates real reform. Let us all do our part to present the facts to those in our circle. With a bit of effort we can educate everyone about the truth regarding health care reform.

1 comment:

  1. Lisa Teiger: excellent commentary on health care reform! Thanks for layout the issues