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Insurers to Workers: Good Luck with That

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.

7 Comments

  1. John

    March 5, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks for stirring the pot! We need a national shout until their is decent health care for everyone. A real super power nation takes care of it’s people.

  2. Jerimee

    March 6, 2007 at 9:35 am

    One way of helping us get that much closer to decent health care is to join organizations pushing corporations to recognize that their employees actually get sick. Some reports indicate that 70% of low-income workers to not have any paid sick days! Sen. Kennedy has sponsored a bill to address this on the federal level, and grassroots groups are organizing in North Carolina to do something similar.

  3. sturner

    March 6, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Remember, too, that the 20- 30% administrative costs are mostly used to deny sick people coverage. All the private health insurers want to “cherry-pick” the healthy patients. There is no true risk pooling, which is why 47 million remain uninsured.
    A quick word about “universal coverage.” When I talk to patients about this in my office I was surprised to find that there is a common misconception. The distinction is crucial. When patients hear universal coverage they may mistakenly envision a government health program (i.e. United Kingdom). In America, discussion of universal coverage implies national health insurance (i.e. “Medicare-for-all”).
    The majority of Americans want a form of national health insurance. Patients would be able to keep their current hospitals, doctors, etc. However, it scares them to envision a cadre of postal-blue clad health care workers fanning out across the country to man the county health departments where citizens would be required to obtain their health care. To my knowledge, no US health care proposal is advocating such a UK or Canadian-style government run health program.

  4. aplum

    March 6, 2007 at 10:19 am

    That’s too bad for Vicki but on brighter note, the CEO of BlueCross BlueShield NC got a 22% raise bringing his salary to $3.1 million per year.

  5. sturner

    March 6, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Which by today’s standard for CEO pay means Dr. Greczyn is still “underpaid.” CEO’s nationwide average about 400 times the entry level worker now. In 1980 it was about 20 times the entry level worker. I guess the CEO’s are just twenty times better than the used to be! Somebody tell Jack Welch. Unfortunately, your average worker is still a slacker because their pay has been stagnant, or worse, for 30 years.

  6. Andrea V

    March 6, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks, Steve, for pointing out the confusion over universal care. I am advocating for universal coverage, not a UK-style system of health program. Been there, done that, and wouldn’t give up our doctors and hospitals for it. However, universal coverage is overdue. Now I have to go take up a collection for the Greczyns of the corporate world.

  7. vicki readling

    March 14, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    my point is this..i had insurance…i got sick…my coverage went away…try sleeping at night knowing you are losing your insurance and you are in the middle of raditation treatment after having surgey for breast cancer. i just want my life back to being normal.. i want to be able to get married without fear of insurance issues. everyday of my life this is on my mind. i try to stay positive and just carry on. i hope alot…i wish alot… this is the only place i have written anything about this. just had to. thanks again.. sincerely, vicki readling