Friday, February 19, 2010

So, who's on first?

It would be funny, if it were not so serious.

I read a report yesterday about how Americans are facing an increase in health care costs. Some Californians are facing huge increases in their health insurance coverage — to the tune of 39 percent. The increase is essentially for those folks who buy individual insurance policies.

Who is most likely to buy an individual policy? Someone who is unemployed or doesn't receive insurance coverage through work.

The article points out that only five percent of non-elderly Americans have individual insurance and 60 percent are covered by employers. That leaves a large chunk of folks with no coverage or whose care is covered by government programs.

Politically, the rate hike in California, which impacts about 800,000 people, creates a new talking point for health care reform (or the new buzzword health insurance reform).

How can people afford health insurance, if the rates continue to increase? There are other cases of premium hikes in Maine and Indiana, too. My guess is that there are cases in every state.

The economy isn't helping the situation. Many folks who are unemployed and need medical insurance are signing up for these individual policies. Younger people, who are unemployed are not buying policies. They are "winging it" and hoping they don't get sick.

With a more concentrated pool of sick people buying insurance, the companies are increasing prices to cover the services. The quandary now is that folks who really need health insurance to cover their medical conditions cannot afford it. When these people with known medical issues fail to seek treatment or must seek emergency treatment without medical insurance, who pays the bill?

See, I'm thinking the government — really taxpayers — eventually pick up the tab for this medical care. While some people have died from lack of health insurance, as a general rule, we do end up taking care of many people. Services are provided whether an individual can pay for them or not.

I know many people are adamantly opposed to health care reform, but I think we're talking in circles as we argue against reform. It's like that Abbott and Costello joke, "Who's on first?" If we just listened to the details, we would understand who is really paying for medical care when people don't have access to health insurance.

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