What's So Good About It?

by digby

Here's an excellent op-ed called "Like Your Insurance? Maybe You Shouldn't," about why people who have insurance shouldn't be so goddamned complacent about what they've got

First, what does it mean to say that you are satisfied with your health insurance? Consider homeowner's insurance. Until you need it -- your house burns down -- you have no way of judging its quality. The same goes for health coverage; until you have a serious illness, the kind where your plan's limits and exclusions may kick in, how do you know if your health coverage is any good?

That's a good point. But people who choose to be tribal clones over their own self-interest or are so deeply uninformed that they should probably not be allowed to drive cars are plentiful in this country so I don't think they've thought of that. But they should. Plainly, those who have insurance are on thin ice too, every last one of them.

If you have Medicare or the VA, bully for you. But you have no business arguing against health care reform or protecting the insurance companies because you are accepting the horrible "government run insurance" which you insist must be denied to the general population. You know in your heart that insurance backed by the US Government is going to keep covering you, don't you? You just don't want other people to have what you have.

If you are in the individual market, as I am (especially if you are over 50, as I am) you are just plain screwed.

The individual market is completely broken; according to a recent Commonwealth Fund study, 73 percent of people who tried to buy individual coverage in the last three years did not end up buying a plan.

And that's because if you can even get it in the first place it's so expensive and terrible that it's hardly worth having. If you get really sick and you aren't a millionaire, expect to lose everything because that's probably what will happen. And don't plan on keeping the policy you have now at the price you have. You're living in a dream world:
Among this year's large rate increases on the individual market:

• Anthem Blue Cross in California has notified about 80% of its 800,000 individual policyholders of double-digit increases, many above 30%. Spokesman Ben Singer says rising medical costs are prompting the increases.

• Blue Cross of Michigan is seeking state approval for a 56% increase in individual premiums. Spokesman Andy Hetzel says the company needs to offset losses stemming from state rules making it the sole insurer required to take all applicants.

• Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon will raise rates for approximately 10,000 Washington state customers by 27.1% on March 1.

Another Washington insurer, LifeWise, raised rates 17.6% on Jan. 1, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner in Washington state.

By comparison, group health insurance premiums paid by employers rose about 5% in 2008, says a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Some insurers say increases this year for individual policies aren't out of the ordinary. Aetna, for example, says individual policy increases nationwide range from 8% to 22%

And by the way, the recession has thrown many, many more suckers into that wonderful individual market than before and they are all screwed now too.

Which brings us to the employer paid insurance market which most people have. Guess what? This article says that employer paid health care dropped from 64% to 59% in 2007 alone! It's getting ridiculously expensive out there for employers as well and they are dropping their coverage like hot potatoes. I can't wait to see the stats for 2008.

And that doesn't even address the fact that by having your insurance tied to your specific employer you are, at this point, giving yourself over to indentured servitude in order to be free to get sick. I've always suspected that America's great love of "liberty" was overstated (except when it comes to guns, of course) but the fact that people are willing to continue to submit themselves to virtual serfdom to some corporation for insurance rather than support a change that would allow them to easily move from job to job (or start their own business), just strikes me as a sad commentary on what we've become.

So yeah, everybody you know who's panicking over the idea the government's gonna take what they've got, had better think twice. They're likely to lose what they've got anyway, or at least start paying a whole hell of a lot more for it. Maybe they think the god of the market can save them, but they'd better hope he intervenes before they get sick because if he doesn't they are just as screwed as those who are stuggling mightily to hang on until we can crawl to the Medicare office at 65 and finally get some decent insurance.