We all need health insurance.
When possible, acquiring and maintaining health insurance is part of being a responsible United States citizen. We are all adjusting to our new mandated healthcare plan – the Affordable Care Act, or better known as Obamacare. The concept of Obamacare was new to many of us – basically a one-size fits-all healthcare system. We could no longer choose an insurance plan that fit us. When Obamacare was introduced, I will admit I was skeptical. I remember watching television and listening to President Obama attempting to sell his healthcare plan to us – the citizens of the United States. I remember him telling the American people that families should expect to save about $2500 per year. After his speech, I honestly thought, “well, he should know more about this new healthcare program than I do” and I changed my attitude and was willing to “give it an honest try.” But, unfortunately, I felt like I was sold a bill of goods – I did not see a savings of $2500. Not even close. And it really has become evident this year with the unfairness of health insurance increases.
The rebuttal I continually hear is that so many more people now have insurance that didn’t have insurance before. Great. That’s good. But what doesn’t make sense to me is people in Minnesota always had insurance available to them. Both for those who couldn’t afford health insurance and for those who were uninsurable. Programs were available. And somehow, because some people now have insurance that didn’t before makes it okay for families like ours to pay more than our fair share.
The most frustrating part is how unfair the insurance premium increases have been. The media continually states the significant premium increases “only affected less than 6% of Minnesotans.” These “<6%” are people who have individual plans, which equates to farmers and small business people. And because there are so few of us, I guess our government says it’s okay that we pay substantially more because we can’t make much noise.
Here is my story:
I received a notice in late 2015 that stated my insurance premium would increase by 65% as of January 1, 2016. My mouth dropped in disbelief. Are you kidding me? Going from $1092 per month for two people to over $1800 per month. Who in the hell can afford this? If I calculate our insurance premium based on a 40-hour week, the first $11.25 per hour would go strictly to pay for health insurance premiums.
Who can take $11.25 off of their hourly wage for just health insurance?
When you read the state’s 2016 Rate Summary paper, they really try to downplay the huge increases. If you look at their 2016 Rate Summary paper, they state:
“Many people who buy their individual health plans through MNSure (Minnesota’s State Exchange) also qualify for federal financial assistance that lowers their monthly premiums and helps offset the impact of rate increases.“
Oh really? Many of us don’t qualify for federal financial assistance. But once you say that . . .
dead silence . . .
The unspoken words are “Oh, so you don’t qualify for subsidies, so that means you must be making enough money to pay for it.” more silence . . . no sympathy for you . . .
So why not purchase another insurance product? Because we don’t have choices. Where I live, I have two options. There is no competition. No choice other than increase my deductibles significantly. And this is a choice?
Our healthcare system has serious problems and needs help.
And no one is talking about it. No one. Politicians are not talking about it. And the reason no one is talking about it is the increase only affects less than 6% of our population. Plus, our President tells us ACA is a huge success.
Well, I beg to differ. It needs to be talked about!
And what about 2017?
It’s not looking good either. A couple of temporary programs are due to expire at the end of 2016. Risk corridors (help insurers with higher than expected costs) and reinsurance (for cases of high medical costs about $45,000 a year) will end at the end of the year. These costs will be factored across all taxpayers.
“According to Parente’s research with the University of Minnesota, premiums after 2016 will increase quickly, especially for cheaper plans. Bronze family plans could rise by 45 percent (from $9,000 to $13,000) while individual plans could skyrocket by 96 percent (from $2,000 to $4,000). What will result? A rise in the uninsured rate. Parente estimates a 13 drop in the size of the individual health insurance market in 2017 alone, followed by a 1 percent decrease each year for the next decade. That would mean the uninsured rate could reach 40 million within 10 years — 10 percent higher than the uninsured rate today.”
This should scare the bejeebers out of everyone.
There is no question many changes need to be made in our healthcare system. So what specifically needs to change? I am no health insurance expert by any stretch of imagination, but let’s talk about it and DO something! Here’s a start:
- ALL LEGISLATORS need to follow the same health insurance programs they imposed on their constituents. No opting out! (There is a reason this is number one on my list.)
- Change the pay system for medical care providers. Currently, the payment for services rewards providers on volume irrespective of quality or efficiency. We need to move towards rewarding value and efficiencies.
- Give consumers more choice – in both medical care and medical insurance. Let competition provide a better product at a lower cost.
- Provide consumers with more information on cost of medical services.
- Increase awareness and promotion of wellness programs. Preventive measures is much less costly than chronic diseases entail.
- Offer incentives for people who take control of their own health. Possibly a premium discount for keeping certain key health parameters within range.
- For more information, check out the detailed report from the Brookings Institute, Health Policy Issue Brief.
The bottom line is we need to make changes in our health care system. We have no choice because our current system is not sustainable.