a broken system
My own experience with health insurance has been nearly always bad. I have been self-employed since leaving the government seventeen years ago and my health insurance has come through my wife’s employment. Being self-employed and not having any actual employees, health insurance companies will not let me buy into a group plan, meaning that any attempt by me to buy insurance directly would have cost roughly six times more than a group plan provided by an employer. My wife has lost her job twice and on each occasion we have only been able to continue insurance under COBRA by paying three times what it cost us when my wife was employed. My wife lost her job most recently last September and we began shopping around for insurance. My wife is in her mid fifties and I am in my early sixties and we have some health issues, though nothing serious, as I’m sure is true for most people our age. We were initially denied any insurance coverage but eventually were offered a health insurance policy, reluctantly, by Anthem at $3000 per month, which we could not even begin to consider. We finally opted for catastrophe insurance at $700 per month which offered basically no coverage unless we were to have a serious health problem, in which case the insurance would kick in after we had spent $6000 of our own money.
So we were in a situation where we had enough resources to pay for insurance but the health insurance industry was doing its best not to provide us with coverage because it assumed, correctly, that we might possibly cost more than we would be bringing in. I do not favor a national health system but I do believe that every citizen should be able to buy into a group insurance plan without the insurance companies denying benefits for health conditions and for employment status. There is something very wrong with the current system which, I think, can be fixed without nationalization by improving access to what already exists. For what it’s worth, I know of a fairly large number of people my age more-or-less who are in health insurance limbos very similar to ours. They have fallen in the huge crack between employer provided group health plans and medicare and are now finding themselves either with no insurance or insurance that covers nothing and still costs many hundreds of dollars per month. It really is an uncaring system that only concerns itself with the bottom line.
Healthcare has been a serious Republican liability for over a decade. Without the healthcare issue, recent political history would have been fought on national security, economic growth, taxes, and education, terrain far more favorable to the center-right. If we accept that reforming healthcare is an iterative process — not something that will happen in one fell swoop — it might make sense to push for a compromise measure like Wyden-Bennett coupled with Medicare reforms like those proposed by James Capretta. No, it’s not ideal. Reform will have to be reformed, which is where conservative policymakers will be able to play a central role, e.g., by encouraging a shift away from fee-for-service.