If you are an average American, I have a hard time understanding why you do not want to see the health care and health insurance industries reformed. As near as I can tell from listening to my conservative friends, it has something to do with government not interfering with private industry and the haves not being forced to pay through taxes for the health care of have-nots. I sort of get that. I approve of government not interfering in my life and I do not like my money going being given to other people. With that understood, let me give you a peek into my personal finances.
Before we had our second son, we were paying more than $700 a month for health insurance. That was a family plan that still had us paying out the nose for doctors visits, medicine, and the like. It also didn’t cover maternity, so when it came time to pay for the birth of our second son a couple of months ago, the nearly $10,000 it costs to have a child in this country came out of pocket. We were fortunate enough to have prepared in advance for this and had the money to write the checks. Still, despite paying $8,400 a year in insurance premiums, none of the costs of having a baby were covered.
And so with the birth of our second child, our insurance premiums went up to greater than $900 per month. If we don’t change our health care coverage now, we will pay more than $10,000 per year in premiums (and that doesn’t include the money we spend meeting the $1,500 personal deductibles on every member of the house).
I’m not going to go into how much I make per year, but for the sake of easy math, let’s just say I pull in $100,000 annually (and all of these figures are really loose and just for the purposes of discussion, so don’t go pulling out a caclulator on me). With that in mind, I’m paying 10% of my annual income for health insurance. Add another 30% for taxes and 10% for mortgage and there goes half of what I earn in a given year. If I were the kind of guy to tithe, that makes it 60% gone before I start paying for my kids’ education, all the house bills, car payments, and everything else that goes along with getting along in America.
It’s not a whine, because we’ve managed to get by and still save some dough in the process, but it’s getting harder every day and the no-return, barely covering our asses insurance is a real pain in my neck. I can’t imagine how life would be if we had a real medical emergency or longterm illness and had to call on Blue Cross/Blue Shield to bail us out. It’s a low confidence proposition at best.
My brother–a doctor–worries about what a nationalized health care system will do to his potential earnings. He worries about what would happen to the quality of health care in America if doctors suddenly made significantly less money. Where would the incentive be for the best minds to enter medicine? That’s a very fair argument and one I accept is a big issue. But, for those of you who think the free market is handling this just fine and that I should just suck it up and pay for the services I’m getting, consider the following.
When it came time to pay for the birth of our second son, the hospital and related doctors let us in on a little secret. Because we were paying out-of-pocket, it would cost us 43% less than what it would cost an insurance company. That’s right. If we had insurance that actually covered maternity, the doctors and hospitals would have billed our insurance company 43% more than we were billed.
That’s a big hold-on-a-minute for me. I have a hard time accepting that hospitals and doctors have one bill for people who have cash in their pockets and a much bigger tab for insurance companies who are footing the bill. It makes me wonder if that’s not the reason my health insurance premiums are so big.
“But, wait!” say health care professionals. The biggest culprits in this whole issue are the greedy trial lawyers who jump on the slightest hint of medical malpractice. These people cause the insurance premiums to go up and doctor bills to be so high. Malpractice insurance is astronomical and it’s gotta get paid by somebody.
To follow this argument, I have to accept that greedy Americans have fallen prey to even greedier trial lawyers and the lack of tort reform has led to malpractice insurance being too high and doctors having to charge much higher prices as a result. Because of the high costs of practicing medicine and the litigious society in which we live, the average American can’t afford health insurance. So, kill all the greedy Americans and the lawyers with them and we can get back to taking care of America’s health needs.
There is merit to that argument, but it doesn’t fix it for me. Because, no administration Republican or Democrat has been able to really implement tort reform on a meaningful level and as long as we have lawyers making our laws, it won’t happen. In the meantime, I have to wonder what happens to the people who are truly sick and can’t afford real health care? Do we let them die because Barack Obama is a Democrat? Do we let them die because we’d rather spend our taxes killing Saddam Hussein than saving a middle aged American’s cancer-stricken child? Is that the choice we have to make?
Yeah, I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that I have to spend so much of the money I earn to cover the gamble that somebody in my family may get gravely ill. I’m annoyed that the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies have found a way to game the system such that it costs middle class guys like me more than $10,000 a year to keep my family covered. It annoys me that health care is a political issue, that Republicans see it as an issue of overspending, and that the Democrats can’t get their shit together long enough to fix a real problem that’s existed for longer than I have been paying my own insurance premiums. It also annoys me that no matter how confident our President seems tonight, there will be no point in the immediate future that I will be paying any less for health insurance.
But more than anything, I’m annoyed that I live in a country in which more than half of the population believes that good health care should only be available to people who have enough money to pay $10,000 a year for it.
That’s just fucked up, folks.