Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This is Why Popular Opposition to Healthcare Reform Never Made Sense

I can understand why health insurers don't want reform. They don't want to be forced to like actually insure anything, which involves paying out money as well as raking it in. They seem to regard premiums as poker chips to use in their acquisitions games. The only folks they don't resent paying are lobbyists.

But how can ordinary premium-paying people, let alone businesses dying under the weight of premiums, possibly be against reform? When those premiums continue to cost more money, take an outrageous proportion of income, while insurers do their damndest to pay as little as possible, and let the patients die where they may.

Then along comes the company that used to call itself California Blue Cross when I was paying them, and now is Anthem Blue Cross. Excuse me if I don't stand at attention and pledge allegiance. They announced a 39% rate hike for individuals, effective in March. Not all that different really from what they had been doing, though maybe more incrementally. They raised their rates by about the same percentage last year. I can't even imagine what it is now. They priced me out years ago.

However, this time there's a storm abrewing. Like JFK jumping on steel price hikes, and surprising the hell out of the steel magnates, the Obama administration is jumping all over this one, demanding justification, holding congressional hearings. Blue Cross has responded in its typical shrewd way--they've humbly agreed to recind the increase. Until May, presumably when the kerfluffle is over and people are paying attention to something new.

Meanwhile, AP reports that individual premiums are going up by at least 15% in four states. A family of four in Maine can expect to pay $22,500 a year in premiums (which if memory serves, was the yearly salary for a member of Congress in 1960.) And this is just the beginning of the latest wave:
"You're going to see rate increases of 20, 25, 30 percent" for individual health policies in the near term, Sandy Praeger, chairwoman of the health insurance and managed care committee for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, predicted Friday.

All of this should help a health insurance reform law get passed, but I'm not holding my breath. Because that would only make sense. And nothing about politics makes sense anymore.

People die because they aren't insured or otherwise are denied care. I may yet become one of them, and I long ago accepted that possibility. I'm not too surprised anymore that people could let this happen. But why people who are paying these horrendous premiums aren't demanding reform, is more of a mystery. Could it be that racism trumps all? I mean, is it just because it's being proposed by a black President? Or what?

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