I’ve heard so many reasons why President Obama should back off on his zeal to reform health care, and to me, none of the reasons make sense. Unless you’re very wealthy, or a Member of Congress, your health care coverage and expenses are spinning out of control.
Last week in Isthmus, Bill Lueders made a great point about one of the new buzzwords associated with health care: HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. One of the benefits was supposed to give us increased privacy. Lueders says exactly the opposite has happened. Who has access to your health records now?
The people you would least want to know all about your health are the folks who have the most information about it. And those folks are insurance companies, which use the information to prevent us from getting insurance or coverage, and to find reasons not to pay our claims.
Another question, which the Obama administration is sort of addressing, is why for so many people, health insurance is tied to their job. Another big buzz-word is COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), which means if you lose your job, for a few months you can have the privilege of remaining insured, by paying “both sides” of the policy cost.
This change to health insurance being tied to you job happened relatively recently. I remember when I bought my own health insurance, but then gradually it became part of the “benefits package” employers offered. Things started to go downhill from there, as far as I’m concerned.
We stopped caring how much drugs cost, when we changed the way we paid for them. First, we paid the cost out of our pocket, and then submitted the charges for reimbursement from the insurance company. We knew just how much the drug cost, because we actually paid for it.
Then, they changed it to a confusing system of co-pays and deductibles, so nobody really knows how much money the drug companies are charging. I have one medication, a common asthma med, which costs $235 for a month’s supply if I buy it myself, but $10 if I buy it through our insurance plan.
Despite the mounting number of health care horror stories, most of which relate to insurance, there are those who say the President should slow down, not try to take on too many things at once, worry about the economy now, and health care reform later. I think he knows that if it doesn’t happen this year, it’s not going to happen - again. Time is of the essence.
And to those who say “what, you want a politician making decisions about your health care?” I say “better a politician than an entry-level employee at a huge insurance company”. In my case, which I believe is common, more often than not some faceless nameless person at an insurance company is already telling my doctor what he can and can’t do in caring for me. Or at least what they’ll pay for.
Socialized medicine? Another scare tactic. Members of Congress have socialized medicine. They tend not to talk too much about that, though.
There are billions and billions of dollars at stake here, and some firmly entrenched special interests. For my money, ANY change would likely be for the better.
Tomorrow: my adventures in the wacky world of medical billing.