Friday, February 22, 2008

Putting a Face on Health Care Reform

As the debate about health care reform continues to evolve, we see many facets of the issue examined. Political platforms are dissected, technology based solutions debated, costs analyzed, and statistics quoted in every variety of media the U.S. consumes. Amidst the maelstrom of numbers, it seems to sometimes get lost that the reason we need reform is people. People such as the ones Kristen Gerencher writes about in MarketWatch:

At age 49, small-business owner Jacqueline Church Simonds doesn't want to gamble by going without health insurance but she considers the price she pays for that peace of mind exorbitant.

She transitioned from COBRA seven years ago when her husband left his job and employer-sponsored coverage behind so they could start a business together. They now pay $1,300 a month -- $15,600 a year -- for a small-group PPO policy that covers the two of them, she said. With costs soaring and consumers asked to make more decisions, you need up-to-date health advice.

She looked into health savings accounts but found that having to pay full price for services would leave them with no savings, and the couple hasn't found a more affordable comprehensive option because of their health histories, she said.

"We decided we didn't want to be self-employed and have no insurance," said Simonds, vice president of Beagle Bay Inc., a book publisher and distribution company in Reno, Nev. "Because of that we probably had our nose rubbed in the inequalities and inefficiencies of the system more than most people."

The article gives us a personal view into the lives of three different Americans who have run up against the brick wall of our "non-system" of health care. As awareness of the weaknesses in health care delivery enter the mainstream consciousness, people are getting nervous.

A survey of 1,200 adults in the March issue of Consumer Reports found that six guaranteed principles for health reform garnered more than 80% approval. They were: coverage for all uninsured children; protection against financial ruin due to a major illness or accident; the ability to obtain coverage regardless of a preexisting condition; coverage that continues even when people are laid off, change jobs or start their own business; premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that are affordable relative to family income; and the ability to keep current health coverage if desired.

"People are becoming more and more aware of how vulnerable they are to a hugely expensive medical episode," said Nancy Metcalf, senior project editor at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, N.Y. "They're starting to see insurance isn't helping them out as much as they thought it would."

Gerencher helps us to put a face on health care reform. The unfortunate thing is that the face is one creased with worry as it stares at a medical bill.

SOURCE: "Confronting health care's inequities: Three middle-class workers struggle with high costs, limited coverage" 02/20/08
Photo Courtesy of atul666 used under this Creative Commons license

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