Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

A recent article in Time magazine proclaims that the new healthcare reform planned by our federal government will wind up costing us more than if no plan had been enacted. I'll pause a moment now for you to partake in some quiet reflection...

OK. That was refreshing. I'm back. Here's a little parcel of info from the article that should help in your understanding of the issue...

Just two days before Tuesday's scheduled vote on the Senate Finance Committee's health bill, a report warning that the bill would result in sizable hikes in insurance premiums was released, and then widely panned as a flawed analysis of cherry-picked information. White House officials said they felt "misled" by the insurers, who they claimed gave no notice that they were about to release the study. And health-policy analysts fired out press releases all day Monday debunking various points made in the study, authored by consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers, including its assertion that between 2010 and 2019 the Senate Finance Committee bill would cause the typical family health-insurance policy to rise $20,700 more than if no reforms at all were enacted.

Who'd-a thunk big insurance companies would raise rates? Would you guess that, regardless of healthcare reform or none that rates would rise? I would. When is the last time your healthcare provider called and told you, "Hey - you know what? We're charging too much and we're going to pass the savings on to you." If that ever happened, you'd die from heart failure. Then you'd really need the insurance. What do you think the odds are that our rates will increase whether we get reform or not? Even money is a start. I think our federal government is about to find out who is really wearing the pants in this relationship.

GOVERNMENT: We're going to reform healthcare.

INSURANCE COMPANIES: Oh yeah? Try it, we dare you. We'll just raise the rates.

GOVERNMENT: But if we don't reform healthcare, you'll raise the rates.


Oh - did I mention that the health insurance industry funded the research? Well they did. And that prompted a retort from one of those high-end smarty-pants guys at a big college. To wit:

Jonathan Gruber, a respected MIT economist who has advised lawmakers on health reform, released his own analysis asserting that insurance premiums for young adults, typical families and older Americans would actually decrease by hundreds to thousands of dollars per year under the Senate Finance Committee bill.
What accounts for the discrepancies? One problem with the industry-funded report is that it bases its prediction on provisions in the bill that increase costs, while ignoring others that seek to mitigate those costs - such as subsidies to help many currently uninsured Americans purchase coverage. The report also makes broad assumptions about the impact of reform that conflict with the assessments of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For example, the report assumes that the bill's proposed tax on pricey "Cadillac plans" will not impact how many businesses continue to provide such plans to employees.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Suffice it to say that I live in New Jersey. We have the highest property taxes, among the highest auto insurance rates and a 7-percent sales tax. Every now and then, somebody running for office promises to reduce our taxes. They use the word "reform" a lot and promise to get big insurance companies off our back. How'd that work out for us? Not too good.

Still, behind all the debunked and debated facts lies one irrefutable truth: even Finance Committee staff admit they do not know the precise effect the bill will have on private-insurance premiums. "It's impossible to figure out what the bottom-line impact is," a committee aide admitted in a Monday afternoon conference call with reporters.

So don't hold your breath over healthcare reform. Take it from someone from New Jersey who has been listening to government talk about it for 20 years. Besides, holding your breath will make you dizzy and you'll probably fall and hurt yourself.
Then, what would happen?


susan said...

I just posted this post to my blog. Good work!

howard said...

I find many of the conversations revolving around health insurance and health care reform quite interesting.

I find it curious that certain polls of American satisfaction with health care coverage include such a wide swath of those who haven't dealt with any serious health care issues -- if I were going to formulate a poll about satisfaction, I'd limit it to folks who actually have had to use their coverage to a substantial extent. I expect the satisfaction would be lower.

But that satisfaction limiter notwithstanding, I find it curious that the two highest-ranked healthcare systems in the U.S. (according to customers) are both government-administered: Medicare and the VA. They both run circles around the highest-ranked private insurance plans, which makes me wonder (along with the threats of reactionary price increases) what's so bad about socialized medicine again?

It's alright, maybe they'll actually do something real about it when healthcare starts sucking up 20 or 25% of the gdp.