The Americans who love their insurance

Screen-Shot-2013-05-07-at-5.21.55-PM-300x158Now that various Medicare for All proposals are being discussed, lots of insurance industry puppets opponents of universal healthcare are asking, “What about the many people in this country who love their current insurance plan? Shouldn’t they be able to keep them?” *

So… who are these people who love their insurance? I have never met any of them.

I suppose someone might think that I’m one of them. We have good insurance. We get it through my employer, and they pay for a chunk of it (though my chunk is a non-trivial though reasonable paycheck deduction). It provides good coverage.

I do appreciate my insurance. But if that’s “love,” it’s not because it brings me joy; it’s because the alternative is shit.

Here are some features of my rather good private insurance over the last few years (from several different major and well-known insurers):

  • You have to go the right places for service or it costs more. These things change. People accept some versions of their insurance but not others.
  • Periodically they will decide you have to different pharmacies or labs or else you have to pay out of network costs.
  • There are co-pays, which are apparently determined by what type of service you have gotten, the phase of the moon, and how many cheeseburgers the president ate during Executive Time that morning. Seriously, I think they’ve got a random number generator to come up with them.
  • Usually you then owe some other random amount, which you get billed for by the provider, which again is a random percentage of the total cost.
  • If you have any kind of hospital procedure (make sure you go the right hospital!) you will then get approximately eight to ten bills from various people. You will also observe weird things like “the cost of your colonoscopy is $25,000 (not a joke there) but you got the special Acme Insurance $22,500 discount, but you still owe some amount that we are going to pick while we’re having drinks after work today.”
  • Thanks to Obamacare, some of the more annoying parts are gone – like, “You changed jobs, and anything that happened before is now a pre-existing condition for which you will get no coverage for the next 6 months! Enjoy paying for your prescriptions!

And dental, of course, doesn’t have any of the protections that Obamacare brought, so I had the fun experience of my employer changing dental providers while I was in the middle of getting an implant (which, you may not know, takes months from start to finish). So I wound up not being covered because the new insurer did not pay for the removal of the bad tooth. Because that makes sense.

No. I do not love my insurance.

I appreciate that I am pretty privileged in terms of medical insurance. I am also aware that the main role my insurer plays in this is taking money, making weird decisions to take more money, and generating reams of paperwork that is mostly incomprehensible. And that the net result of this is that all my medical care costs about twice as much as it would if I were Irish or German or French. Oh, and if I lose my job I’m kind of fucked.

If we’re going to talk about “people who love their insurance,” let’s find out why they love it, compare what they love to what they would get under a Medicare for All system (in terms of coverage, cost, and experience), and actually see what that looks like.

Or, I guess, we could just bluster about socialism and bureaucracy (because the insurance industry isn’t a bureaucracy, oh no!) and scare them. That way, the insurance companies can keep getting paid.

Because that’s what US healthcare is: a giant welfare system for private corporations. We’re all paying for it, either through our premiums or through our lack of medical care.

* (Yes, there is a role for private insurance in a healthcare system that provides universal coverage from a single funding source. The UK has it – yes, that’s right, you can buy private insurance to have a gold-plated version of the National Health Service experience that provides every single person with medical care. So I’m not arguing that there isn’t a role for private insurance here. Just that the current role provides no benefit to the public.) 



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