Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why I Support ObamaCares (pt1)

I'm having a conversation on twitter about health care. Now twitter is many things, but nuanced is not one of them. So I'm going to post a more thought out, reasoned, nuanced take here. If you've never had a major illness then you have no clue how badly the American healthcare system is broken. 

And just for the record I don't post what's going on with our family for sympathy or because I think we're special. I post because I know our case is NOT special. I think that people need to hear the stories of health care failures of US system.

This blogpost is part 1, written before ObamaCares. I'll post what that law means to our family in part 2.

This is what I wrote about our journey through the healthcare system in 2009, before the ACA (ObamaCares) bill was passed and signed into law:


In 2003 my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent an expensive surgery ($80,000) and returned to work. Six months later his employer (of 10 years) laid him off. Whether this was a coincidence or a premeditated act to get him off their insurance rolls is something we will never know, however there is great pressure on employers to keep health insurance costs down, and one way to do that is to make sure you don't employ people who need insurance.

At the time, I was a stay at home mom, not working, so we went on Cobra, paying $800 per month until our savings ran out, then we went on Minnesota Care. We qualified only because we made almost nothing.

I needed to go back to work. During my job hunt, I had to worry about what to put down on the insurance forms if I got hired: when you know you will increase your employers premiums just by signing on it's a REAL dilemma. You can't lie. But then when you tell the truth, the job could disappear. This happened to me. A company offered me a job, but when I inquired about health benefits suddenly the job offer was rescinded.

I eventually found work. At first we were afraid to put my husband on the work insurance plan, because if he had a claim they might lay me off, but we had to do it because we couldn’t keep him on MNCare. I talked to my very understanding employer and she agreed to put him on our plan in 2004. Because we went on three different plans during that time we ended up with over $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses as we moved from one plan to another, even though all were “Medica”.

In 2007 his cancer reoccurred. He had another operation. This one was more expensive because he came down with a MRSA staph infection which required even more hospital time.

The past two years our insurance premiums have gone up 22% and 23% respectively. Each time it’s resulted in a pay cut for me as my salary does not increase, but our health care costs do. This year I will take a $200 per month “pay cut” so we can have health insurance. Additionally we pay a $1500 out-of-pocket and a $3500 deductible. My husband's latest CAT scan cost us $1240, and the doctor visit was $357, and he will need to do it again in 3-4 months because it looks like there may be re-growth of his cancer and we have to decide on whether to start Chemo. I don't even want to think about how much that medication is going to cost us. At that point we will pay 20% of every bill (outside of the few things covered at 100% like office visits) because our plan is 80/20.

Our total medical costs per year are around $10,000, making health care almost 20% of our gross wages each year (2009).

If there is no public option and I lose my health insurance or the small business I work for goes under what insurance plan would we be able to afford and who would insure us? I know that if we do not let our insurance lapse they can't turn us down, but our reserves are gone, and keeping up on insurance premiums without an employer's help would be almost impossible now. If we lose our health care insurance because we can't pay for it any more, waiting times to see a doctor are the LEAST of our worries. My husband won't be able to get the care he needs because we won't be able to afford it.

If I lose my job, then our only option at this time is Cobra. That cost us $800 per month in 2004, now it’s more likely to be $1200 per month. Since we already burned through our 401k to pay medical expenses not covered by insurance from 2004 to today, then that option (Cobra) is a magic pony as far as we are concerned. So then what? We can qualify for MinnesotaCare if we don't make any more than $15,000 per year (family of 4), so if we are completely destitute we can get coverage.

I think the answer is to pool everyone. You can't cull out health care "abusers" the way you can refuse to insure, or raise the rates on bad drivers, because health issues (much of the time, though certainly not all the time) aren't a result of bad choices. My husband got cancer. He didn't DO anything that caused it, it just happened.

When you have health care predicated on PROFIT then they will maximize their profits by refusing to insure or raising the rates, or rescinding people's policies.

Capitalism works well in many cases. It's just that the profit motive won't work for health care. If you have a public plan that only enrolls the people that NEED it, it will fail. So you have to cover everyone.

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