Below I asked for first person accounts of what the Senate’s version of Obamacare is likely to mean for readers. Here’s the first response, from Andrea in Sacramento:
Hi Hugh –
Thank you for taking input from plain, ordinary citizens about the horrendous “health care” the legislature wants to thrust upon us. We are a homeschooling family, and my husband Mark is self-employed, so we don’t represent the bulk of the nation; but I am very well acquainted with the costs of health care because I have had to buy it for our family for nearly 20 years. Our income is low enough that we qualify for Healthy Families and quite likely qualify for Medicare or Medicaid or whatever they call it, but we don’t believe it is the government’s job to provide health insurance for our family.[# More #]
We were priced out of HMOs years ago when our monthly premium went from about $450 to over $600 (and that was not with a change in age bracket). That was the largest increase we have had in all our years of buying health insurance, but we generally do see a 25% increase each year. I often hear that health insurance costs rise about 10-15% each year; that certainly has not been our experience. Following that huge increase, we switched to PPOs to lower the costs, and we found a great plan for $178, but it nearly tripled in cost in just three years. We then discovered that the insurance company had developed a lower tier without notifying us, so they were charging us $100 more per month than we ought to have been paying. We then began to do business through a broker, thinking that they would have informed us that there was a lower rate that we qualified for. I’ve since learned that that is not the case when earlier this year, I learned that our plan had been lowered by $30 per month; I had to follow up with both our broker and our carrier to get our premium lowered to the new, lower rate.
Every couple of years I have to find a new plan because our current plan becomes too expensive. Usually that means switching insurance companies. In California, we basically have only three choices (excluding Kaiser)–Blue Cross (now called Anthem), Blue Shield, and Health Net. Since Blue Shield was the company that overcharged us for over a year, that leaves just two options for us. Each plan that we have switched to has been a plan newly developed by the insurance company, and with each change in plan, we lose more and more benefits. Right now, for $360 per month, we have a plan with no prescription coverage and a $2,500/$5,000 deductible and a $5,000/$10,000 out of pocket maximum. We essentially pay for everything ourselves, and thankfully we rarely need to use our health insurance, with the exception of my oldest daughter who is being treated for acne.
If the government really wanted to help us (which I don’t think they do), the first thing they could do is allow us to deduct our health insurance premiums as a business deduction rather than merely as an income deduction where it is still subject to self-employment taxes. Another thing they could do would be to allow companies to sell insurance across state lines to give us more options. I’ve even heard of very low-cost programs with doctors and hospitals that are available in other states but not here in California. Through your show, I’ve also learned that the states (and California is likely at the top of the list) have certain mandates that increase the cost of insurance. If those were removed, that would also be a big help to us.
As far as guests to have on the show, the first person I thought of was Bobby Jindal. I would really like to see him run for president in 2012, and I understand he has a background in health care through the Bush administration. We need government officials committed to fixing the problems. I also would like to hear more observations and suggestions from Clayton Christensen. His ideas on innovations in the way health care is delivered seems to be the way to improve the system–using technology to help nurses take on the routine tasks and diagnoses now handled by doctors, thus allowing general practitioners to move into the more routine areas now handled by the specialists so that the specialists can concentrate on the complex cases.