Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Health Care Law

What I find amusing are all these people criticizing Obamacare who (1) have clearly not been on the exchanges and (2) most likely already have health care insurance.

 First let's acknowledge that the role out was screwed up and the technical issues were a total fiasco even given the complexity of the web sites.

Second, I'll talk about my personal experience.

I have health care but one of my daughters doesn't. We've been covering her via COBRA from my wife's health care plan. The cost was $524 a month. The plan was administered by Blue Cross-Blue Shield and was a PPO.

Getting on the New Jersey exchange was a challenge but once we managed that we found that the health plans were organized in several tiers. The lowest tier was a "catastrophic policy" which basically covered nothing but extended hospitalization and the basics that all plans must cover. Then there were Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans with ascending costs, varying deductable and ascending coverage.

Ultimately we chose a Silver Plan from Blue Cross-Blue Shield with reasonable co-pay, deductable and prescription support. The plan was an EPO but, since we're talking Blue Cross-Blue Shield, just about every doctor we knew was a part of the network anyway.

It took a while to compare the various benefits because there were significant differences and it wasn't always obvious why one plan had higher premiums than another. The plan we ultimately chose was $335 a month. By far the longest part of the process was comparing the plans. After hitting the "yes I want that one" button they gave you a phone number at Blue Cross-Blue Shield to call but everything pretty much moved forward from there auto-magically.

After going through the exercise I also understood why they probably had such problems getting the exchanges off the ground. The site links directly not only to health care provider sites but also to the IRS for checking tax returns. The complexity is no excuse but it is more complicated a system than I originally thought.

Could the plans be better? Absolutely. Will their costs go up? Very probably. Is 35 million people without health insurance a financial catastrophe? You bet it is. By law a hospital cannot refuse someone care regardless of whether they have insurance or can pay. When you have 35 million without health insurance (1) they don't get medical attention until it's a crisis and (2) they go via the emergency room which is the most inefficient and expensive option.

Universal health insurance is a financially sound approach. Personally I think we should have Medicare for everyone with varying levels of coverage and premiums because a single payer system would be far and away the most efficient. The current health care law is far from perfect but it's a step in the right direction.

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