Health Benefits We Can’t Afford to Lose
A while back, I received an email from the White House asking me to "share my Obamacare disaster story." Fortunately I don't have a catastrophic health insurance story to share, but I do want to speak up for the Obamacare benefits we can't afford to lose.
I have participated in many different insurance plans over 30 years as a small business owner. Before Obamacare (Affordable Care Act (ACA), there were serious problems with insurance coverage. The ACA isn't perfect, but it's a great improvement over what we had in the past.
I'm very worried about the proposed GOP health plan and the devastating effects it may have for our country.
Before and After the Affordable Care Act
Before Obamacare, the only affordable route to health insurance was through your employer. Without a job, an individual's premiums were much more costly and coverage could be denied for pre-existing conditions.
Small businesses paid much higher premiums than larger companies before Obamacare. With the ACA, all premiums are the same within each state and plan prices are posted online and benefit options can be easily compared.
The ACA covers screening services such as physicals, mammograms and colonoscopies, helping to prevent serious illnesses down the road. Lifetime maximum coverage limits have been eliminated—a huge benefit for people with chronic or castostrophic illnesses.
Though rural areas have fewer provider options than cities, people can still choose their doctors under the ACA and many plans include Health Savings Accounts. Services and costs need to be better in less densely populated states, but improvements have been made with the ACA.
Far from a disaster, Obamacare has given peace of mind to many people who were afraid to leave their jobs or worried that a pre-existing illness would deny them coverage. Before the ACA, insurance was not feasible for most young adults. Now they can stay on their parents' plans until age 26. Older people like myself, between the ages of 55 and 64, pay no more than 3X the cost of the least expensive premium.
Will Key Health Insurance Benefits Be Lost with the GOP Plan?
What can we expect with the new GOP plan? Will preventative care be included? Will older people be able to afford coverage? Will rates and plan benefits be published and easy to compare? How many people will opt out of insurance? The very issues people struggled with before the ACA seem to be coming back with the GOP plan.
The GOP says that insurance companies are dropping out of states, that premiums are skyrocketing. These are real problems, but their new plan won't solve them. The key to making insurance work is making sure everyone is insured. This is why we have the individual mandate and why we must keep signing up younger working adults.
We Need a Bolder, Universal Health Insurance System
Americans want to have comprehensive and affordable health care coverage. The way to do that is to share costs—the same way we share the expense of schools, roads, and national security. A universal, single-payer model, supported and managed by the government would make it more affordable to all.
Most industrial countries have universal health care. For example, in Japan all citizens, permanent residents, and anyone with a long-term visa must be enrolled in a national insurance plan. Japan also has private plans, like our Medicare system, that provide supplemental coverage. Of course, we know there are criticisms of government funded plans, such as long waiting periods and the shortage of specialists. But by studying the best models we learn what works and how to improve shortcomings.
It’s time for a radical change in health insurance. Just like the communications industry, which has been revolutionized in recent years, a bold new approach must be taken with health insurance. Why not get the best technical and innovative minds together to propose new ideas?
With the individual mandate, the ACA seemed like a stepping stone to universal health care. Now we are faced with a new plan that has many uncertainties, one that could be a real disaster for our country.