Okay, here is the deal. If you are attempting to stop healthcare reform for fear of SOCIALISM then I would like you to sign the petition I created to pledge your support to refuse to use the Medicare you already have or to promise to never sign up for it. That’s right, Medicare is a government run insurance administered by private insurance (unfortunately) to private doctors and hospitals much like the evil public option in the healthcare bill will be. Not everyone seems to know this as, Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) told The Washington Post that, at a recent town-hall meeting, a man stood up and told him to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
I was once told by a family member who was complaining about his Medicare coverage that he had to sign up for Medicare and couldn’t choose private insurance. Not being 65 yet, I took his word on it. I have since done some research and learned (that’s right when you are told a fact you can actually take the time to ascertain its correctness) he was wrong. Medicare is entirely voluntary, although you will face a late fee if you sign up for part B or D after you are initially eligible. But since you are opposed to socialized medicine I am sure that you will never ever sign up.
Did you know that most of our medical research is also “publicly funded” i.e. socialized through the National Institutes of Health (NIH)? Much of our basic drug research is funded by….the GOVERNMENT! I guess you will also have to swear off using any drugs or receiving any service funded by the NIH, after all you would hate to use SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. If you have employer based insurance you pay your premium pretax which is obviously a form of government subsidization or SOCIALISM. I guess you should also demand the government stop subsidizing employer based health care via tax breaks. (For those not following…imagine if you didn’t get the tax break and then when you went to the doctor the government covered portions of your doctor visit up to the amount that would not have been collected by taxes i.e. they are pay for your healthcare). This comes to almost 200 billion a year in government subsidies.
Why am I so angry you ask? In a recent blog posting I stated that my insurance was over 10% of my salary. Since that time I have obtained a raise and yet my family premium is now over 20% of my salary through the same insurance. I work for a small business with less than 10 employees and the cost of providing insurance is prohibitive for my company. Luckily I am also in grad school so I can buy insurance from the school. They raised my rates significantly this year and also put in a new maximum payout for prescription drugs which my wife’s one medication will nearly surpass by the end of the year. It is only thanks to savings that I currently have insurance. I have no credit card debt, my mortgage is less than the average cost of rent, both cars are paid off and anyone that knows me can verify that I do not spend money on gadgets, clothes, etc. In other words I am a hard working part-time student with a family who spends his money conservatively and yet I can barely afford healthcare.
Note on Small Businesses: The self-employed and small businesses with fewer than 25 workers constitute only about 30% of all workers, but they represent almost half of uninsured workers, or close to 17 million people. These small businesses have the highest rate of uninsurance and constitute the largest percentage of uninsured workers. If you include the spouse and dependents for this group, a significant number of the uninsured are workers or dependents of workers in small businesses
I have never been unemployed for more than two-three weeks despite multiple layoffs when I worked in IT during the dot.com bubble and yet I have been without insurance more often than I can count on one hand. Each time I lost a job I was offered COBRA but the high premiums were jaw droppingly difficult to contemplate paying at the exact moment I lost my job. When I finally found a new job, I usually remained without insurance for another 90 days (the probationary period). On one such 90 day period I tore my meniscus the very day that I was eligible and signed up for insurance. I was more than a little lucky. It was bad enough that the torn knee made me lose a month of work (I became a server when I returned to college) but if I had to pile massive healthcare bills on top of money I lost it would have been a disaster. I dare say that I probably would have spent all the savings I was using to finish my bachelors to pay for medical bills.
Later after leaving that job for one without health insurance I attempted to obtain private insurance. Not only were the rates/deductibles far too high to be useful but it excluded any further medical service for my knee. Luckily, my wife’s job started offering insurance because less than a year later I started suffering from shin splints as an after effect of my torn meniscus. If I had taken one of those private insurance plans I would have been up the creek without a paddle. According to The Common Wealth Fund 73 percent of people who tried to buy individual coverage in the last three years did not end up buying a plan. What more evidence do you need to see that the invisible hand of free market guiding private insurance companies has become all thumbs?
I have also had experience with public insurance. My father was in the Army and I grew up with free medical coverage that was always top notch whether I went to Bethesda Navy Hospital for a major concern or to the local military primary care unit (PRIMUS). Did I sometimes wait an hour or two in the waiting room with the flu? Yes, I sure did but I have done that with private insurance too even when I had an appointment (PRIMUS did not give appointments). Military insurance was so vital that when my parents split they delayed divorce to make sure they were married long enough to guarantee my mom military healthcare after the divorce.
I am not alone in the world of hardworking people who can barely afford their health coverage. Despite common misconceptions that this plan is designed to help only the lazy and the shiftless (which is not that high a number if you consider that prior to the current Great Recession our unemployment rate rarely topped 5%) the large majority of un or underinsured are the working middle-class who make too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.
Although one might presume that most people are uninsured because they have no job, this is not the case. 73% of the uninsured worked during the year, with an overwhelming amount working full-time. Some industries are less likely than others to offer health insurance. Farmers and agricultural workers, construction workers, the self employed and small business worker and those who work in service industries such as hospitality and retail have higher rates of uninsurance.
The numbers of working uninsured are only likely to rise as employers drop or reduce their health plans. The percentage of people covered through employer based insurance went from 64 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2007. This is partly due to employers dropping coverage and partly due to the rising cost of premiums which were not met with rising salaries. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for family coverage increased from $5,791 in 1999 to $12, 680 in 2008—a 9 percent annual increase. How many workers do you think earned a 9% annual increase in pay? If this continues it is impossible not to see how companies will suffer from this cost burden when they go up against foreign companies whose workers do not need such plans.
Even if you do not lose coverage at your job you may lose your job, decide to leave for a new job and be stuck without insurance unless you can afford COBRA (how free market is that to make you stay in a job for fear of losing health insurance) or you could get divorced from the spouse you depend on for health coverage.
Keep in mind that if you have COBRA and move out of the area, and your former insurer has no coverage in your new location, then you are back in the individual market, which is no market at all. The same goes for if your company goes out of business and your plan is by default terminated. COBRA is no guarantee of anything.
There are problems in our healthcare and I admit to not having all the solutions but if your only goal is to stop reform without offering a substantive solution then you are ignoring the problem.
America DOES NOT have the best health care in the world. Despite spending the most money on healthcare by, over 17 percent of GDP, the World Health Organization still rates our health care as lower than Switzerland which spends 10.9, Germany which spends 10.7, Canada which spends 9.7 and France which spends 9.5.
We were 37th in overall performance and 72nd in overall level of health with a higher infant mortality rate than all other developed countries. Does that sound like the best to you? It is time for change. Immediate change. We do not need to “slow down.” Universal healthcare has been an issue since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, how much slower can we go? We’ve watched the rest of the industrialized world provide universal healthcare successfully for the last four decades it is time we figure it out how to do it too.
So please, if you are opposed to healthcare reform because you fear SOCIALISM then sign my petition asking for you, the signers, to be removed from or prevented from obtaining Medicare.
Fear tactics about long lines, hip surgeries that never happen, death panels, etc. are the same type of hysterical exaggerations that were used in the fight against Medicare back in the 1960s. I figure if you are going to use the same arguments used against Medicare against a new public option for all then you should renounce your ability to sign up for Medicare. I am sure the private market will give you what you deserve.
According a recent Harper’s Index:
- Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large U.S. health-insurance companies: +87
- Percentage change in profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428
It seems pretty logical to me that insurance companies would have easily remained profitable without raising fees. Maybe not 428% more profitiable but certainely profitable. It is this drive for annually increasing profits inherent in our economy that makes profit-based insurance such a social and moral failure.