Public option's critics ignore bigger problems with private insurance

I understand that fear of the unknown is often stronger than fear of the known, but even so I’m struck by how many people argue against a potential public health insurance option while ignoring huge problems with our current system.  

There’s this woman, who made the news by shouting “Heil Hitler” at a town-hall meeting in Las Vegas. She’s against health care reform even though she says her husband has three jobs and no insurance.

There’s the anti-reform guy who got into a scuffle at a St. Louis town-hall and put out a call for donations to cover his medical bills, since he recently lost his job and his health insurance.

There are also people who complain about increases in Medicare taxes, which pale in comparison to the sharply rising cost of private health insurance during the same period. Today the Des Moines Register published an excellent letter by Charles L. Johnson of Fort Dodge, who answered one such critic:

Regarding the Aug. 6 letter from Doug Brown criticizing Medicare: Brown complains that the Medicare tax rates increased seven times in 23 years. I assume he refers to the employee contribution to Medicare.

In any case, one should compare seven increases in 23 years to the situation with one’s private health insurance that has, in all probability, had 23 premium increases in 23 years.

It’s always good to look at the whole picture.

I know my health insurance premiums go up every year, usually well beyond the rate of inflation.

Speaking of letters to the editor, I was stunned by Ryan Blackard of Waukee, whose letter was also published in Wednesday’s Des Moines Register. Excerpt:

I’m fearful for my 7-year-old son, Ian. I’m not fearful because Ian suffers from tuberous sclerosis, an incurable genetic disorder that causes tumor growth in the brain, heart, lungs and other vital organs. My fear is what a government-run health-care system will ultimately mean to Ian and millions of other disabled people.

Throughout his life, Ian has suffered countless seizures, had brain surgery and has spent weeks in the hospital. Under a government system, bureaucrats making health decisions could easily determine Ian’s quality of life doesn’t justify expensive treatment. […]

We are blessed to live in a nation with the best health-care system in the world. It’s not perfect, but what is? Let’s protect people like Ian and voice our concerns about government intrusion into the most important, private decisions a family has to make.

Mr. Blackard should do some research to find out what chance his son has of obtaining private health insurance after he is too old to be covered on his parents’ policy. For that matter, Blackard might consider what the family would do if they lost their current insurance before Congress passes health care reform. Is he willing to pay out of pocket for all medical procedures associated with Ian’s pre-existing conditions? Because insurance companies typically refuse to cover people with a genetic disorder.

Publius of the Obsidian Wings blog discussed some problems families affected by Down Syndrome face here. One mother decided to quit her job to care for her special-needs infant and later found that the family could not obtain any private insurance because of the pre-existing condition. The Anonymous Liberal adds,

Indeed, one of the primary legislative goals of the National Down Syndrome Congress is health care reform. If you look at their website, you can see their policy goals track almost exactly with the kind of health care reform currently being proposed.

Palin warns that the people who “will suffer the most” when the government “rations care” are the “the sick, the elderly, and the disabled.” The exact opposite is true. It is the private insurance industry, not the government, that excludes the sick, the elderly, and the disabled. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and it makes no economic sense for them to cover people who are likely to incur enormous health care costs over their lifetimes. Good luck trying to purchase private health insurance if you’re old, sick, or disabled.

Indeed, it is for exactly this reason that most every other country long ago gravitated toward a universal system. The alternative is a world in which people like Trig (and their parents) are punished because of their bad luck, a world in which the elderly are priced out of the system, and a world in which those who need insurance the most are unable to purchase it.

If you have any ideas on how to get through to people who are swayed by fantasies about Obamacare but unconcerned by insurance companies’ current practices, please post them in this thread.

  • Pull the plug on 'em...

  • One example that hits me is:

    If a government-run health care system is so bad, how come members of Congress haven’t dumped their plan in favor of private industry insurance?  I’m waiting for your answer, Sen. Grassley.

  • I've always felt that the Democrats in Congress

    have gone about health reform in the wrong way.

    It was a poor idea to create several 1000-page (hastily crafted) bills, which, upon reading, provide “news-spin” fodder for those who oppose it.

    Rather, the Democrats in Congress would have been wise to create a small piece of legislation to deal with Ian’s future problem of pre-existing condition.  It would be easy to explain to the public, difficult to criticize, and most likely easy to pass.

    Then, build on that legislative victory, to get the ball rolling.  Currently, the ball is stopped for Democrats in Congress.  Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid are trying their hardest to get it rolling again though.  

    They most likely missed an easy opportunity.

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