Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Don't need no stinkin' health insurance exchange

   "We don't need a government health-care plan to be able to solve the problem," quoth Rick Santorum. "What we need is a process in this country where people will have an opportunity to go out and use their resources."

    Tell that this couple, Mr. Ex-Senator.

    A few years shy of Medicare, the husband and wife face these costs for health insurance: $578 a month — "the cheapest program possible" – with $3,500 individual deductibles. All told, their out-of-pocket costs are $10,000 a year and rising.

     I know about this because of emailed exasperation from the female half of this couple after she read that Texas had refused to set up its federally required health insurance exchange program.

     Texas is one of nine states, Florida being another, sandbagging on the requirement of the Affordable Care Act to make the cost of health coverage less crushing. The exchanges increase competitive pressures on insurers as customers shop for coverage online. Federal subsidies are attached for those most in need.

   Gov. Rick Perry put the kibosh on any progress toward an exchange system in Texas until after the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act and Barack Obama's presidency goes before the voters.

   The other states freezing the ball in defiance of "Obamacare" are Republican-controlled. Until their calculated defiance ends, their uninsured are effectively without a country, at least as pertains to what Congress did to address those Americans' needs in 2009.

    What these states are opposing is the essence of a painstaking compromise. Whereas a single-payer system would save untold suffering and crippling costs — just visit Britain, Canada, Germany, name it, to know how — those like Obama who campaigned on doing something about swelling seas of uninsured came up with the insurance exchange concept, built around private insurance.

    Ah, but millions of uninsured persons be damned in GOP-controlled states. Let them find the "resources" to fend off catastrophe — and of course provide profits to keep the middle man happy.

     America: One nation, of, by and for the middle man. The little man be damned.

     It's true that no one knows how things will shake down when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, just as no one knew what would emanate with Social Security and Medicare. But despite the criminally inflated assertions that the act is a job-killer and more, the fact is that a lot of people are benefiting as we speak.

      In Florida alone, data from the Department of Human Services reports that seniors on Medicare have saved $142 million on prescription costs in 2011. This comes from the closing of the "donut hole" in the Medicare Part D drug benefit, affecting 238,362 seniors in the Sunshine State alone.

     Those who are getting as much as a 50 percent discount on prescriptions under this change had better hope that the Supreme Court's right wing does not prevail when the court considers the Affordable Care Act next week.

    Back to the Santorum approach to health care, which is for Americans to just find jobs and make enough money to have it:

    The Washington Post reports that more than a quarter of the people who have found jobs in this recession — one caused by blue-sky deregulation and Reaganomics — have had to settle for temp jobs that have no benefits.

    Things are not getting any better in the big-boxed, outsourced marketplace as states like Texas and Florida play partisan games. In my state, Colorado, employer-provided health care coverage have declined from 64 percent of Coloradans to 58 percent — that's over a span of only two years. Imagine the situation 10 years hence.

     And imagine the costs to each of these working families. After all, Medicaid is for the poorest Americans. The uninsured are people who make too much for Medicaid.

     Basically, what we have now is resistance from people who have what they need — health insurance, often including Medicare — and who don't want to consider what it costs for those who have none.

     "I guarantee you the antis have never had to pay for their own insurance, doctor visits or medicine," said the Texas woman, boiling over with frustration as her state poses again to not be a part of the union.

    That may be a figurative claim, but take this one literally: It, and the political party ruling it, is not part of the solution.

    Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Marty's Husband said...

I live in Texas. I pay $575 a month for private insurance and they will have to pry the policy from my cold dead hands -- until we get an exchange. Maybe then I can look at more than the one company who would insure me, maybe then I can get better insurance, maybe then I can get better prescription coverage....who knows. Gov. Perry, governing a state with the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, is only interested in poking the President in the eye and stopping freedom of choice. He is a sad, sad man.