Editor’s Note: This piece is part of MomsRising.org’s healthcare blog carnival, which also includes a post by our very own Gloria Riesgo and will run until the end of this week. We are still accepting submissions so if you’d like to participate e-mail me at elisa at mothertalkers dot com. Also, actress and health advocate Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”) will “tweetchat” with MomsRising members tomorrow (Thursday), 12 p.m. PST/3 p.m. EST. If you’d like to join Fran at the live tweetchat, go to www.tweetchat.com and use the hashtag #hcrparty. Thank you! -Elisa
Update #2: The House Democrats just sent me additional information on how healthcare reform will help uninsured pregnant women and newborn babies as early as TOMORROW (Thursday):
The NEWBORN Act builds on the benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act for moms and their kids. Through the Act, affordable health insurance will be more accessible for the estimated one in five women of childbearing age who are currently uninsured, and the following benefits will become available in new plans starting September 23, 2010:
• Well-baby and well-child visits, including a doctor’s visit every few months when your baby is young, and a visit every year until your child is age 21
• Special, pregnancy-tailored counseling from a doctor that will help pregnant women quit smoking and avoid alcohol use
• Screening for conditions that can harm pregnant women or their babies
Counseling to support breast-feeding and help nursing mothers
It is no secret that I am in favor of healthcare reform in the United States. Approximately 46 million Americans do not have coverage, and at some point or another, I was one of those Americans, relying on Planned Parenthood for free pap smears and heavily subsidized birth control pills.
Right before college, my parents had to file for bankruptcy protection due to overdue medical bills related to my little sister’s premature birth. I worked three jobs to get myself through school, even getting a bout of mononucleosis because I was so run-down. Except for about four years, in which I had health insurance through my company, I have always had a rocky relationship with the private health insurance companies.
Here are two things I have learned from our stormy marriage: If you have no health insurance, you need to be comfortably middle class to be able to afford it. $1,500 for COBRA is ridiculous. If you do have health insurance, you need to be comfortably middle class to afford it. By that, I mean, even if you are paying steep premiums, don’t get sick. Private insurance companies, whose purpose is to make as much money as possible, will find a way not to pay for things.
Just a year ago when my healthy family of four were individual subscribers at Blue Cross Blue Shield, I saw our monthly premiums double in five years, while our services declined. Who knew that the only hospital in Berkeley, California — a city of 100,000+ people — had no “in-network” BCBS anesthesiologists? BCBS covered my “unnecessary” epidural alright. After I broadcasted their smarminess on the blogs, including the heavily-trafficked Daily Kos of which my husband is the founder. But how many people have this kind of platform to pay their medical bills?
Considering all my baggage with former sweethearts BCBS and now Kaiser Permanente, I should be thrilled that healthcare reform passed, right? Hell yeah, although I am waiting for more competition in the marketplace.
Last month, Kaiser raised my family’s premiums by 39 percent. Yes, you read that right. My healthy family of four that actually dumped BCBS in favor of a plan at KP, is facing a 39 percent increase in premiums. Now is the time for us to join the public option, but oh wait a minute, there is no public option! There are no price controls or competition to keep the private insurers honest. We are stuck paying the 39 percent increase whether we go to the doctor or not. Or, we just don’t insure our family, which is unacceptable with a 7-year-old and 3-year-old. What if they fall and break an arm on the playground?
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with our doctors and the services I receive at Kaiser. Also, there is plenty to like about the Affordable Care Act, such as preventing private health insurance companies from discriminating against sick people — “pre-existing conditions” — allowing college students to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26, more choices within the private sector, and subsidies to help people buy insurance. But most of these provisions do not kick in until 2014.
And without a public option, there is no guarantee that private health insurance companies won’t continue to charge whatever they’d like. Also, there is nothing keeping them from bleeding us the next few years before the law takes place. Who was looking out for us when this bill passed?
I have never held elected office, but I always fantasize about what my bills would look like if I were in charge. My healthcare proposal would have been three words total: Medicare For All.
Think about it. Seniors like their Medicare. It already exists, so you wouldn’t need to create another health insurance company or exchange. Let those who like their private insurance plans keep them. But let those of us who are unhappy with our current plans or uninsured, buy into Medicare. I can feel the power I’d wield, if upon receiving a letter from Kaiser informing me of my 39 percent increase in premiums, I could walk away.
It would very much work like public school. You want private school — and there are plenty of people who do — then you pay for it, or apply for financial aid, the equivalent of a subsidy for private health insurance. If you don’t like your private school, or can’t afford it, go to public school. But everyone would get schooling, and competition only improves the quality of education — including in the private sector.
As for the argument that it will put private insurers out of business and lead people to the unemployment line, I doubt it. Just like there are plenty of people willing and able to pay for private school tuition, there are always going to be folks who want the exclusivity of a private insurance plan. Also, in expanding Medicare, you would create jobs, albeit in the public sector. A full-time job with benefits is — a job, right? How many people, especially if they are unemployed, are going to say “I refuse this $50,000 a year job because it’s in the public sector!”
It sounds like the companies in the private sector don’t want competition. Here is an idea: Improve the quality of your services and lower costs. Heck, offer your services when people actually get sick!
As many of the much-needed reforms take place, I hope Congress continues to build on the current bill.