Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grow Up, Healthcare

In browsing the Plain Dealer this morning, I came across this article by Diane Suchetka entitled: Healthy Cleveland: Unemployed often unaware of insurance options. Suchetka makes the point that a third of people without health insurance are eligible for free coverage - and most don't even know it. Frankly, and with all due respect, I have a hard time believing that statement, particularly the latter part.

I recently did a story on two different women who lost their health care coverage. The first woman lost her job (read: she worked in healthcare) , and could not afford to continue her coverage with COBRA. She was ineligible for government assistance because she was an adult- and all the government health insurance programs are for families with children or women who are pregnant.

The second woman worked in a job that didn't offer health insurance. She had three children, and the family was covered through her husband's health insurance plan - that is, until he was laid off. If he had remained unemployed, they could have applied for Medicaid, but he found a new job two weeks later with a health insurance plan that had a 9 month waiting period. Unfortunately, his daughter was hospitalized before that nine months was up, and as a result the family is considering bankruptcy.

Both women I spoke to knew their options - or as it turns out- lack of them. They were not uninsured because of lack of information, so I have to wonder, who are the people who don't know they are eligible for free coverage? More likely, they know full well what is being offered but don't take advantage of these "options" because they simply don't see them as reasonable.

For starters, COBRA and high-deductible emergency plans aren't free - in fact they are often far too expensive for working people, much less someone not bringing home a pay-check (in the two examples above they would have cost $350 and $1500 a month respectively) -- and even if $50 or $100 a month for the high deductible emergency insurance plan won't break the bank - what happens when they rack up a $5000 hospital bill that falls below their deductible? Who will help them pay then? I bet in those situations they'll be wishing they had put $100 bucks a month in a savings account instead.

And as for free government coverage, remember, it is limited to those who earn less than 42 thousand dollars a year - and not a single individual mind you - that's for a family of four. Are you kidding me? I can hardly support myself, let alone three other people on that kind of money, and there is little chance I'd still have a several hundred extra left every for health insurance or medical bills if it wasn't free.

My point is this: the people who are uninsured are not the ignorant ones. They are not the uninformed. The ignorance is in the government believing that the only people who deserve health care are the rich (who can afford it) the chronically impoverished, or the young. To them I say, healthy kids grow up to be healthy adults who sometimes get sick, sometimes need a dentist, and sometimes lose their jobs. It's time for healthcare to grow up and help them afford it.