Why Do People Think Private Health Insurance Is So Great?

As I continue to watch the hysteria around health care reform, I often find myself asking, “Why do people think private insurance is so great, that a public option would be catastrophic?”

It is obvious to me that the misinformation being fed to the public about so-called “death panels” and unauthorized access to people’s bank accounts is clearly the work of the insurance industry.  And I can certainly understand why, as they potentially stand to become losers if health care reform passes.

But what I don’t understand is why the public is so infuriated with the idea of a public option which would potentially finally give them choice over their coverage and could ultimately make it affordable for many more people.

Am I the only one who understands that private insurance companies are a BUSINESS that exist solely to make a profit?  And that the way they make their profit is by taking in more money than they dole out?   To me, that sounds a hell of a lot like rationing.

And, if you’re like me, and have health coverage through your employer, are you REALLY satisfied with what you’re getting in return for your hard earned dollars?   I pay about $350 per month in premiums to cover my wife, my 3 year old son, and myself.  (We have another child on the way, so I only expect that to go up.)  In exchange for that $350 a month, I get a nice $20 co-pay when I need to have a regular checkup.  O.K. Fine.  But what about when I or a family member actually gets sick?   Last November, my (then) 2 year old son, came down with a really bad stomach bug that made him throw up every 2 hours and gave him a really high fever to the point where he was getting severely dehydrated.  We rushed him to the hospital where he was hooked up to IV fluids for a few hours and then released when he looked better.  The next night, he went back to throwing up again, and we rushed him back to the hospital where he was admitted and remained for 4 days, with the only real treatment being the IV fluids to keep him hydrated until the virus passed.  So basically, he was fed super-water for a week.

When we finally got the bills for his stay, we ended up having to pay over $2,000 out of pocket.  First, we had a deductible.  Then there was the hospital charges.   Then the hospital’s doctors send a separate bill.  Then, there was a separate bill from a radiologist.  Again, $2,000 to shoot water through his veins, and that’s with “good” insurance.

Since then, I’ve needed to get a CT Scan to diagnose the cause of recurring migraine headaches – $575;  my wife needed a CT Scan to figure out her sinus problems – another $550; and then my son needed tubes in his ears to stop chronic ear infections – add another $2,000.    Add in office visits and prescriptions and we’ve probably shelled out over $6,000 out of pocket within the last year.  Factor in my monthly   premiums and that total comes out to close to $10,000 spent on health care in the last year.

Now, I’m not saying that health care needs to be totally free as it is in other countries.  Hey, it would be nice, but I’m pragmatic enough to realize that we as consumers, have to kick in something.

In my view, a public health plan, that is not out to make a profit, and does not turn people away because of pre-existing conditions, and is portable in case you move, change, or lose your job is what we really need to create true health care reform.    I frankly don’t sympathize with the insurance companies who claim they will lose tons of money if people switch to the public plan.  But that is what the public plan is SUPPOSED to do.  It is supposed to act as sort of an enforcer to keep the private companies in-line and actually, for once, force them to compete for your business.

To give another example of how silly private insurance is – the company I work for now acquired the company I originally signed on with.  The original company provided health benefits through Aetna and the monthly premiums were reasonable.  When the company was acquired, the new company also uses Aetna as its health care provider – but my premiums went up $150 a month!  And the new company has 45 times as many employees as the old one, which I would think should have meant lower premiums due to more participants.    But silly me.

My sincere hope now is that the Democrats go it alone and disregard the minority Republicans and just get it done.  The Republican Party has too much vested interest in the private insurance business to ever bring about real change.    Good, quality health coverage should not be a privilege that a select few get to enjoy.  It should be accessible to all legal tax paying citizens.  Having a public plan does not mean grandma is going to die tomorrow.  It doesn’t mean that you will have to switch to some young green doctor just out of med school.  And it doesn’t mean that the government is going to poke around your checking account at will.

Do yourself a favor and think really hard about how good your private insurance REALLY is.     Are you really getting what you pay for?

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