Thursday, August 13, 2009

An unhealthy attachment to the status quo

It seems that as time goes on more and more people turn against health reform. Although many people sense that the system as a whole is getting out of control and sympathize with the uninsured, they're not willing to pay the cost of reform or risk their own current coverage. They disbelieve the president's assurances that they can keep their coverage if they're happy with it. What they may not realize is that they might not be able to keep the coverage they have now even if no health reform passes.

Health insurance premiums are rising steadily. Every day additional businesses and individuals are priced out of the market. If costs are allowed to continue increasing, there's no guarantee that the benefits being promised today will be affordable or even available in a few years. Granted there's some debate over whether the proposals currently in Congress will achieve the sort of cost savings, which will be required. That's a reason to advocate for the proposals which do, not to reject all reform out of hand.

Besides the questionable overall capacity to sustain the current system, at an individual level good coverage nowadays is depended on one's employer. If you lose your job, you also lose your medical coverage. Even if their job is relatively secure, few people seem to realize that the medical conditions, for which they most need insurance, might also incapacitate them to the point of losing their job and therefore their insurance. Insurance that isn't there for you when you need it isn’t insurance.

Finally, a disturbing trend over the last few years has surfaced: faced with the decision whether or not to pay out large claims, many insurance companies are deciding to terminate people's coverage instead. (See this post.) While this does not really apply to employer-based coverage, it means that those of us with no access to such coverage may not really be able to purchase insurance at all, even if we can purchase "insurance."

Thus, it's unfair to compare potential healthcare proposals with the best insurance plans currently available, because they are not representing the majority of cases and they are and not sustainable. If we do nothing, it will get much worse for all of us.

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