Thursday, March 25, 2010

Because you've all been dying to hear them...

My thoughts on health care reform.

Some of you have already read them. Possibly in multiple places. Some of you (hi, Shane) have heard me go off on tangents involving four letter words and lamenting how incredibly ignorant some people are on the basics of the plan.

If you know me at all, you know I've been extremely passionate about health care reform. I spent some time working in the health insurance business, and it was extremely disheartening. Companies conduct themselves in horrible ways (Google Mega Health Insurance if you want some really terrible horror stories,) costs are freaking insane, and people get dropped for getting sick - you know, the very thing that you get health insurance for. It sucks, as a whole.

I will admit, this bill was something I was very undecided on for awhile. Especially after they added the part about mandating coverage. (Read this, by the way, for some interesting information on the origins of mandating insurance.) I thought - and still do think - that that part sucks. I see the reasoning behind it, but I think that making insurance affordable would ensure that people bought it anyways. So there was that, and a few other things holding me back from fully supporting the bill. I may not have been shouting "kill the bill!" but I was certainly wondering if that wasn't maybe the best plan after all.

Then I looked into it. And what I saw...well, it wasn't perfect. Not at all. But it certainly wasn't the apocalypse. Or our country becoming a Nazi regime. Or any one of a billion other things that people said it was.

There are, however, some wonderful things in this bill:

1. The ability to insure your kid until 26.
- This economy combined with the fact that there aren't a lot of jobs that you can get right out of high school and actually make a living with are increasing the amount of people that go to college. Like your mom. (I had to add in something to break up the monotony.) Well, most college students don't have decent health insurance from their jobs, for obvious reasons, and even after college, you have to do some entry level stuff that may not come with benefits. Well, now your kid can stay on your policy if they don't have another option. That's pretty amazing.

2. Health insurance exchanges
- This might be the most misunderstood part of the bill. The exchanges don't open until 2014, and they are on a state level. Basically, they allow individuals and/or small groups to band together to get large group health insurance plans.

So why is this good?

Individual and group insurance plans are confusing, confusing things. So let's clear that up first. An individual plan is one you buy that is just yours, or yours and your families. It's typically not through your work - you usually get them when you are self employed, unemployed, or work for a small company that doesn't provide insurance. The insurance company looks at your personal health history, and charges you accordingly. They also put riders on things that you have had issues with in the past, usually. (That means, basically, they don't cover you for that.) You may or may not have prescription drug coverage, and you almost certainly have to buy maternity coverage separately. In a group plan, like you get through work, the insurance company assesses the risk of everyone altogether. This tends to lower the costs, as there are usually more healthy than unhealthy people in any given group. Also, prescriptions and maternity are built in, and you generally have lower co-pays and deductibles. Group plans, as a whole, just suck a lot less, lol.

So, basically, you and these other people through the exchange are forming a small corporation for the purpose of insurance only. This gives you more bargaining power with insurance companies, and it allows you to get better coverage at a better price. But YOU are still selecting YOUR private group plan. Still free market, still not through the government.

3. Insurers can't deny kids with preexisting conditions now, and adults with preexistings in 2014.
- So you have this great job with AMAZING insurance. It's fantastic, you're thrilled. Well, then your company downsizes. And maybe you extend it with COBRA, but then you have to find new insurance. Except, every plan you try to buy has some issues with your daughter's asthma or your wife's kidney stones. Like, they won't cover them. BAM! No longer an issue.

4. Wellness programs
- Prevention is the best way to stay healthy. So, using preventative health services is good for you, and good for insurance companies. Well, now they'll have to cover certain things, with no additional charge to you.

5. Basically, everything involving businesses
- For some reason, this article also doesn't mention the fact that small businesses get tax credits if they do offer insurance (a small business is, in this case, under 50 employees and thus not required to get insurance or pay a fine.) That's awesome, and could mean the difference between being able to provide insurance or not provide insurance.

You don't have to agree with me on any of the above. But I really hope anyone reading this will take the time to educate themselves really, really well on the bill. There's been a bunch of insane fearmongering and ridiculous things said over the past few days, and there's a nightmare of misinformation out there. I'm ending this article with some links that have a wealth of information in them and appear to be as unbiased as it gets. Take time, form your own opinion. See the pros and cons of the bill. Evaluate them. Remember that nothing passed will ever be 100% what you want, because it's not only YOUR country. Realize that bills in this country are historically flexible. Then decide what action you want to take, if any. Be proactive and involved, but do it in a mature way after knowing what the hell you're talking about.

Christian Science Monitor
(an in depth look)
Key Info on How You're Impacted
Another "How You're Affected" Thing
How It's Being Paid For (note: it's CNN, but honestly the least biased thing I could find. I usually don't post CNN links.)

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