Dear President Obama: We Need Healthcare Reform Right Now.


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Although I rarely do it, I sometimes use this site as a place to talk about things other than just environmental issues. Today is one of those days.

I have recently joined the ranks of the 47 million Americans without health insurance. I am self-employed, make a good living, and I am healthy to the best of my knowledge. However, I cannot get private health insurance in this United States of America. You know, that place that many say has the “best health care in the world” – even though we are ranked 37th in the world behind places like Malta, Oman, Portugal, Iceland, Belgium, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and Costa Rica. So much for having the best. We are also the only industrialized nation on earth that does not have cradle-to-grave, universal health care. How we are labeled as having “the best” by those fighting reform is beyond me, but it is crystal-clear that we are nowhere near the best in the world. Instead of trying to help improve our system and help more of our citizens get the care they deserve as fellow human beings, they are working their hardest to defeat reform that won’t negatively affect them in any way. (If they would watch anything other than Faux News, they would understand that.) The only things defeating reform will do is this – it will allow insurance companies to continue to cut you off when you get sick while simultaneously increasing premiums by up to 39% PER YEAR as they are doing in California. Certainly sounds like defeating reform is a good idea…if you happen to be an owner of an insurance company and/or are Superman and will never get sick. I am neither of those – and I no longer have health insurance.

I am 37 years old and healthy. I have always paid my medical bills and have never defaulted on anything. I pay my taxes. I work for a living. Yet because I had a teeny tiny spot of skin cancer removed almost 2 years ago, I have had my applications for health insurance rejected 5 times since January. Five applications, five rejections. In a single month. Why? “A history of skin cancer.” After paying monthly premiums since I was 22 years old and rarely using any of the benefits for anything more than a doctor’s visit, a 20 minute outpatient skin surgery and almost 2 years of cancer-free checkups is considered a “history of skin cancer”. Seems to be a pretty loose interpretation of the word “history” if you ask me. Want to know what a true history is? Well, here it is:

15 years of monthly payments to you for health insurance I barely used.

That’s history, guys. A one-time skin issue is not a history – it’s an event. Might it happen again sometime down the road? Sure, maybe. I get checked every 6 months just in case of that…meaning that it would be caught before it caused any serious damage. But I also suppose I could also get hit by a bus tomorrow and end up being hospitalized for a month. I guess you would call that a “history of getting hit by buses” once I got out, no?

We need reform and we need it today. In fact, we need it yesterday. Insurance companies continue to make billions in profit while cutting the sick from the ranks of the insured. How do you think they are making such huge profits? When you can collect premiums for years and never have to pay out claims, it’s pretty easy to keep the profit margins up.

President Obama, I am not asking for a handout. I don’t need socialized medicine like every other country on earth has already. (Although it is tempting to move to a country that has more concern for its citizens than its corporations) I need a a public option. I am more than willing to pay for health insurance without the help of any taxpayer money. I want to pay my fair share. I want insurance in case I get in a car accident or get sick or get hit by the aforementioned bus. I don’t need it to cover a once a year checkup or even generic drugs – I will happily pay out of my own pocket for that. But what I do need is some insurance against being financially wiped out because I have an accident or my body gets sick. We don’t need a mandate to buy insurance from private companies and we don’t need “socialized” medicine. Those two concepts will never fly here in America, since those against reform think nothing here is socialized. (Well, except for police, fire, EMT, libraries, schools, parks, roads, bridges, the airlines, etc.) What we need is a group plan, sponsored by the Federal Government, that allows those of us who have been deemed “uninsurable” or cannot afford the unregulated insurance market to buy health insurance at reasonable rates. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

There are 47 million Americans without health insurance. In 2010 America that’s an embarrassing statistic, and one that needs to change. If you like your private health insurance – that’s great. Keep it. You may not like it so much when they drop you for getting sick, but you can keep it. In fact, I would prefer it if you did. However, don’t take away the ability of anyone else to get the insurance they may want and/or deserve – it’s not a very American way of thinking.

Please, President Obama – fix our healthcare system. We elected you to bring change to Washington and we need you to start doing that today. It’s time we stop celebrating corporate interests over the interests of fellow Americans. Enough is enough – help people get the care they need at prices they can afford. Stop letting health insurance companies line their pockets with billions of dollars while Americans lose their homes, their savings, and possibly even their lives trying to get medical care.

It’s just not right, and we can do better. We must.

Photo from Shutterstock

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  1. Can I get an AMEN? If you’re being denied coverage for such a tiny thing, there’s no change in hell I’d ever get individual insurance with my medical history. It’s a twisted system that’s built to deny coverage for those who need it the most. 🙁

  2. The healthcare reform issue has simply highlighted the obvious problem with the overly partizan politics in Washington. Regardless of whether you’re for or against, a system with two sides will always produce unbelievably long delays.

  3. Healthcare reform can start now with no high price tag

    Obama and Congress are taking the entirely wrong approach to healthcare reform. We can be doing so much right now to improve healthcare without suspicious price tags. There is nothing wrong with carrying out reform in two phases: the immediate and low price-tag phase, and the longer-term, let’s-find-the-money-first phase.

    What can be done now, with little public opposition:

    One group plan
    Everyone would have access to insurance if all insurance companies were required to offer a plan to individuals as though they were all in one large company group plan, with the same rate and no exclusions. There is no cost to taxpayers; premiums are paid by the insured.

    Guaranteed coverage and insurance market reforms
    Few would argue with such provisions. The health insurance industry has been such a Wild West that companies could promise anything and provide nothing. They suffered no bad consequences when they blatantly breached contracts with subscribers. Other than enforcement, there would be no cost to taxpayers.

    Essential benefits
    An independent committee would define an “essential benefit package” as a minimum quality standard. It would include preventive services with no co-pays or deductibles, mental health services, and oral health and vision for children. It would cap the amount that consumers have to spend per year, and cost taxpayers nothing. Insurance companies could add features to this basic package. Now they can get away with not paying for basic services because most people do not have a choice of plans, and insurance plans are far too complicated to easily compare.

    Individual responsibility
    It is time for the government to be honest about the lifestyle factors that cause many of our healthcare problems. According to an article at that is based on research reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, “preventable illness makes up approximately 80% of the burden of illness and 90% of all healthcare costs,” and “preventable illnesses account for eight of the nine leading categories of death.” This is the single most important factor in lowering healthcare costs and making people healthier. But in most ways it is not a role for government. It is up to individuals to change their habits. However, the federal government certainly shouldn’t be making the situation worse. That means telling the truth about the fast food and prepared food industries. And it means requiring that government agencies and contractors use part-time and telecommuting work arrangements so people have time to exercise and prepare food at home. A national campaign aimed at employers, encouraging them to use flexible schedules for workers, such as part-time and telecommuting, could do a lot of good, with the government itself taking the lead. Cost to taxpayers: nothing. In fact, there are potentially huge savings in lowered healthcare costs.

    Pushing for results
    It is time for ratings. Netflix movies are rated. EBay sellers are rated. This is established technology. It is time for a central web site that shows us ratings for healthcare providers. Some sites do this now, but there are too many with too few ratings and it is chaotic. An insurance company doing ratings of its providers is not an unbiased source. How good is that doctor / hospital / radiology lab anyhow? How effective? How organized? How long a wait? How polite? How accurate a bill? This costs little and offers so much in savings and making healthcare very effective quickly. No more money is wasted on ineffective providers. People get well much sooner. Providers change their methods to get better ratings. Cost to taxpayers: very little. Such a site would also reveal the really bad eggs . . . moving on to . . .

    Making sure healthcare providers really do their job
    States are supposed to enforce this now, but often don’t. According to a press release from Public Citizen’s Sidney Wolfe, MD, “Most state medical boards are doing a dangerously lax job in enforcing their state medical practice acts and adequately disciplining physicians.” In another article, Dr. Wolfe said that from 1990 to 2002, just five percent of U.S. physicians caused 54 percent of the nation’s malpractice lawsuit payments, basing his numbers on information from the National Practitioner Data Bank. A constant stream of reports show that hospitals are covering up mistakes. If states were doing their job, there would be little or no malpractice lawsuits. This is far more important than tort reform. With ratings, state regulators, properly funded and monitored, could spot and check on providers who are doing a poor job before they do something really really wrong. Such a practice would eliminate payments to incompetent providers and lower malpractice cost. Cost to taxpayers: very little.

    Emphasizing primary care
    Healthcare reform needs to enhance the partnership between patient and primary care doctor. The primary care doctor is the one who needs to be on top of what is happening with a patient, with whatever record-keeping system works best for him or her (usually a hybrid of paper and database. All-electronic record-keeping is not reliable yet). Primary care doctors need to be paid as much or more than specialists and be paid for phone call and record-keeping time instead of just doctor visit time. Many doctors are forced to use a more expensive visit when a phone call will do because they don’t get paid for phone time. Cost to taxpayers: nothing

    Looking close at hospitals
    Hospitals need to be very closely audited. Not only are there often bogus charges on bills, but the charges are far far beyond costs. No one really checks this, so they keep doing it. Employees wander around hospitals that don’t seem to be doing anything. Hospitals charge for unnecessary tests, with no one making sure that tests are based on research. Anyone who complains is ignored. Medical institutions are roach motels for our hard-earned dollars. Dollars check in but they don’t check out. Cost to taxpayers: very little.

    A simple little thing
    Refrigerator magnets can save millions. Yes, you read that right. A magnet can list the phone numbers, hours, and locations of urgent care centers that can be used during weekends and evenings instead of much more expensive emergency rooms. We now waste millions on non-emergency problems being treated in emergency rooms simply because people don’t know where else to go. Cost to taxpayers: very little.

    Another simple little thing
    Money is wasted on mailed Explanation of Benefits forms from insurance companies when this information could be provided for free via a secured web site. Cost to taxpayers: nothing.

    These no- or low-cost changes would greatly improve care and save millions. They are the first step. There is no reason to delay them in order to get a “comprehensive” healthcare reform. No reform can possibly work without them in place first.

    Patty Zevallos
    media producer ”“ web, video, print

  4. Being a Canadian I am not well versed on the ins and outs of the US health care system. I however find it appalling that people who have health insurance, paid their premiums, can become uninsurable. As a person in my late 20’s I have no benefits, I am too old to be covered under my mothers plan and not yet employed by someone offering benefits. So I worry that I may get sick, that the cost of medication might be high. I don’t however have to worry about the actual medical cost. Should I be hit by a bus, my treatment is covered.

    Put so plainly health care reform is needed. 47 million people without insurance is a staggering number (more then the population of my country). People should not have to loose their life saving should they get sick.

  5. I am SO happy that you posted this and told your story. I am so sick of fighting with Republicans who think that the only people who want a public option or healthcare are bleeding heart liberals who want to enable the poor by giving them what they should go out and get themselves. But this is my thing – were you to ever have another bout with cancer, you’d have to pay for everything: surgery, etc., out of pocket. This is ludicrous. The insurance company would rather let someone suffer than allow them to pay a premium? This is ludicrous. I voted for Obama, but he better get his shit together quick. I can see the sharks circling…I might be one of them. I am sending warm thoughts to you for intervention. Send out that sixth application. Let’s put our collective thoughts together to get you approved. Hell – someone has to do it.

  6. Well said. Very well said.
    My dad is self employed. He is a welder, and makes an honest living. My parents are not rich. Not even close. They make enough to pay their bills and have a little bit left over. They also pay $1500 a month for health insurance. It’s absolutely rediculous that any american have to pay that much.

  7. All Americans should be able to purchase the same federal coverage as members of Congress.

    Take away Congress’s health plan, and let them TRY to buy health insurance on the open market. Then you’ll see health reform passed in a heartbeat!

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more–great post.

    For those out there like your commenter Patty–aaah, wouldn’t it be nice to get something for nothing. Unfortunately, if you want to cover more people, someone’s got to pay.

    The way insurance works is that you have to get premiums from healthy people and unhealthy to cover the unhealthy people. If you simply mandate that insurers “act” like they have one big group plan, without a mandate that people obtain insurance, not everyone jumps in the pool.

    Let’s say you recently joined the millions currently in the ranks of the unemployed. You don’t have a lot of money to burn. It’s possible, if you are healthy, you decide to forego health insurance–say in favor of food and shelter, things like that. If you are unhealthy, you may scrape together that premium dollar because you know it’s the cheaper way of treating that disease you have. It’s a financial decision.

    To deliver health care to all or our citizens, someone has to pay, either other insureds, taxpayers, or insurance company shareholders. We can’t get it for free.

    The problem with plugging the dike here and there is that the water starts gushing somewhere else. With a goal as big as this one, you’ve got to address all the leaks at he same time or you’ll just spring new ones.

  9. I didn’t see this when i posted to your follow up post. On this i agree, we need a public option. I’m opposed to what is being presented at the national level, however, because it seeks to in one way or another bring all Americans under the oversight of our gov’t & i think that has the potential to be very damaging.

    I agree that an event or incident should not effect your ability to obtain future insurance. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I hope this works out for you.

  10. Great article, it really hits home for those who straight up CAN’T get health insurance. I know 3 people like that right now, my mom, my dad and one of my best friends. My friend hasn’t been able to get coverage since he was 21 and kicked from his fathers plan- because he has a genetic disease. Hey, it makes financial sense for them, but how does that help us?

    For my parents, a lifetime of payments and health, then they kick you once something ‘bad’ happens, like a glimmer of cancer. Isn’t that what insurance is for?

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