The big health care summit happened last week. Literally dozens of Americans were glued to their televisions to watch it. The President has released a plan--which is basically a guide for the House and Senate to push reform through using reconciliation--and it strikes a pretty fair balance between the two chambers' bills. I'll be writing up a more detailed overview of that later. But for now, I want--no, I need--to vent a bit.
It seems that a lot of people are threatened by the idea that they will lose their freedom, pay more themselves so that "the other guy" can have coverage, and generally suffer horribly at the hands of the socialicommunazis (because all three things are synonymous if you didn't pay attention in--or attend--school) who will institute "government-run" health care. I get that people are afraid of change, that they are distrustful of government, that they are inherently individualistic. These things are understandable. I happen to think that the hyperbolic assaults on reform aren't really necessary, though. You can state your position without fearmongering. Honestly, sometimes I think Rush Limbaugh is just a big, fat, blinding light for a nation full of moths. Okay, I'm getting off track. See, I told you I needed to vent. **Breathe, Brad. Breathe.**
Here's my beef: The health care system we have now my have familiarity going for it, but it is no walk in the park. The things people claim reform would mean losing are things we don't really have anyway. Look at it this way....
Insurance is regulated by the individual states. As a consequence entry into the market is limited, and insurers are not very competitive. (As an aside, permitting the sale of insurance across state lines is only a good idea if there is a single national standard put in place to prevent all insurers from heading to a state with lax standards. And when you do this, it's called "The Exchange.") So, where you decide to live often limits you to just a handful of insurers right off the bat. Are you free to move elsewhere? Maybe. If you can find work.
Speaking of work, that's how most of us get our insurance--through our employers. They have people working in human resources who may or may not have much experience in selecting employee benefits. Doesn't matter. You get the choices they offer you. Don't like it? Switch careers. Oh, wait. I forgot that no one's hiring in the recession. Just try not to get sick, okay?
Say you live in Georgia, and the three largest insurers (who enjoy 85% market share) are Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, and CIGNA (this is just an example). You're down to three companies. You work for Delta Airlines. They offer you a CIGNA PPO--either basic or plus--so you really get just two options. Three if you think you can afford to buy non-group coverage. Four if you count being uninsured. Now let's say you work for a small employer who doesn't offer benefits. Your options just got severely limited.
All of these restrictions are just on access to an insurance product. They don't even begin to touch on the fact that the value of the products may differ substantially. They don't get into the fact that group-insurance is a much better deal than non-group insurance (with its smaller risk pool). Paying a higher premium because you smoke cigarettes makes sense, but why should what you pay for insurance have anything to do with where you happen to work?
By my own admission, this post is devolving. It is truly a rant. There are too many things for me to address them all in a few hundred or even a few thousand words. My overarching point, lest it be lost in the shuffle, is that people who are worried about the complexities of--and the limitations threatened by--"government-run" health care are ill informed of the current system's complexities and limitations. Otherwise, they would see that much of what's on the table would simplify the system and give consumers more--not fewer--options.