North Carolina has made the front page of The New York Times today with a story that could have come from anywhere around the country: a hard-working person is uninsured because she can't afford health coverage. In fact, that story is growing more common by the minute. According to The Times,
Today, more than one-third of the uninsured — 17 million of the nearly 47 million — have family incomes of $40,000 or more, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization. More than two-thirds of the uninsured are in households with at least one full-time worker."
Middle-class people are increasingly going without health insurance because, even with jobs that pay pretty well, they cannot afford the premiums. In the case of Vicki Readling of Salisbury, a bout of cancer last year precluded her from health insurance this year. Yes, of course, BCBS-NC will sell to anyone, but apparently for this real estate broker, $27,000 a year for premiums alone was going to be too steep. Imagine that. So now instead of taking her cancer medication daily, as her doctors have directed, she can take it just three or four times a week. This is medication that will help her stay in remission. If she doesn't, what then? She's considering postponing her upcoming wedding so that her fiance won't lose his house if she needs more treatment. Does the Defense of Marriage Act do anything in this situation? Honestly, one insurer she contacted suggested she remarry her former husband to qualify for his health plan. Dare we call this a "system" any longer? It's more of a boondoggle, isn't it?
It's time. Time for universal coverage. Whether we take the slow road (think Edwards) or the fast track (anyone? Obama?), let's get out of the ridiculous rut we're in. Beholden to private companies that eat approximately a third of every dollar spent on health care, we're all working without a net. When we think about our insurers and what they expect more often than we do our doctors, something is wrong. When our non-profit insurers can afford bonuses like Bob Greczyn's, something is wrong. When the alleged system is this broken, it's time to think about a new one. Let's go.