June 25, 2012

We need affordable health insurance, all of us

Today might be the day we learn what the Supreme Court is going to say about President Obama’s health care bill.

I can’t help but see the irony in this. The original plan for this came out of a Heritage Foundation white paper, a conservative think tank in DC. Our Republican candidate is known for his Obama-care like program in Massachusetts and its individual mandate.

Despite the bully pulpit and both houses of Congress in his corner, President Obama steered the program away from universal health care to the present one, more in align with Republican market-based values. And following Mitch McConnell’s dictate (and I’m paraphrasing here), the Republicans just want to bring him down.

So the question is: what will the court do?

In my house, like millions of other American homes, that’s an important question.

Here’s where we are. Four years ago we were upper middle class by all accounts. That’s ancient history and we’ve adapted to our new reality. We’re thankful that we are still solidly in the middle class. We also realize anything can happen at any time.

Perhaps the biggest change after I lost my job was the loss of the Rolls Royce insurance plan that came with my job. In addition to losing about sixty percent of our income, we went on my husband’s health insurance. The premium is about ten times what we paid through my job. And the coverage stinks. I have my own business and eat what I kill. Like many other small businesses, I have good months and I have bad months. Due to the nature of the work I do, I never know what it is going to look like two months down the road. And if I take a vacation day, that’s one day away from working or looking for work. Not the easiest way to make a living, but it is what it is.

So when the envelope came in the mail with all the usual bills and catalogs, I thought it was just another EOB, Explanation of Benefits.

Though we just signed a new contract for employee-paid health insurance through my husband’s work, we received a letter from the insurer stating they weren’t providing coverage after year end.
That was a shock. At the beginning of the month, we had made the difficult decision to choose lesser coverage because the monthly premium on the other choice was too high. Last year our medical expenses (nothing out of the norm) ate up about a third of my husband’s check.

My husband checked his company’s web site and there was a frantic “but we didn’t know message.” Talk about good business practices. This well-known insurer informed the individual clients by mail before they told their real customers, the businesses who in many cases pay a goodly portion of the premiums for employees.

So we are scared. We have a son who just graduated from college and is looking for a job in a field that is overcrowded. We are confident he will find meaningful work, but we are also aware it may take a few months. Because of a visual impairment, it is difficult for me to work outside the home as eight months of the year it is dark before the work day ends. So my son and I currently depend on my husband for insurance.

I know we are luckier than many people; many people don’t have insurance.

But I’m afraid. As I type this, my husband is going out the door to the orthopedic doctor for a back problem. We have a $1,000 deductible that started June 1, it might even be $2,500 now. Doesn’t matter, I know we’ll be paying for X-rays et al, but he needs to go.

Remember Hillary Care? I heard an old Bill Clinton interview on the news last night. President Clinton said that with what we spend as a country, if we had a program that made sense we could cover everyone for reasonable cost. Look at any list of countries and health outcomes. We’re not at the top of the list, folks. In fact, we’re sinking every year and into the twenties, I believe. Yet we still have the highest per capita cost of any western country.

I wasn’t sure when it passed that President Obama’s signature legislation was the right thing to do. I wanted some type of universal care. Let me clarify: I want universal payor or coverage. I don’t want the gubment to provide all the care. Keep it in our market based system but pay for it. I’m not sure if that is the intent of the 2,000 page legislation. Of course I’ve not read it, which is not a crime for me, but I suspect neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama have read it either.

Meanwhile, I hope my husband’s back is okay. And I hope there will be some measure of safety net for Americans.

We’ll soon know.