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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Value of Health Insurance

The Value of Health Insurance

Sunday, 02 February 2014 11:23

The Washington Post has a very good piece about what having health insurance means to poor people in Eastern Kentucky with chronic health care conditions. As a famous vice-president once said, "it's a big f***ing deal."

That's not an excuse to overlook the huge flaws in Obamacare. For many people care will still be unaffordable. And the insurance companies, drug companies, medical supply companies and doctors are still ripping us off. But as this piece shows, it is already having a huge impact on people's lives.

Comments (16)Add Comment
written by zot23, February 02, 2014 10:44
I can only speak from personal experience, but for our family of 5 in CO the ACA has made a world of difference. Wife and I are self employed as freelancers, out insurance burden has been on us for a number of years (with not a lot of income.) Our previous insurance was an HSA in which we pay the first $5k and $750/mo for health coverage (and which originally eliminated our son's chronic asthma from being covered at all.)
Went through the somewhat convoluted CO health exchange, but arrived finally at a new policy and full dental in addition. After the tax credits, our health care and dental has a $2k deductible per annum and costs $360/mo. It's hard to overstate what a relief it is to have double the coverage at half the price. It's almost as if you can live with a modicum of dignity and self worth.
The ACA certainly isn't perfect, but from using the process it's benefit is undeniable and I now think it was a worthwhile effort for Obama. The best thing to do now would be to add a public option you would see on the exchanges to help drag down prices and give true competition.
Scraping the ACA and starting over would be a major error IMHO, Republicans need to scuttle that idea if they want to remain relevant. They ceded the floor by obstructing the original push for the ACA, the fact that it has now arrived and works (somewhat) is the time to cut your losses and retreat, not try to roll back the first piece of decent legislation in 10 years out of D.C.
Anyway, I hated the mandate and the ACA when it was passed, glad to see I was (at least somewhat) mistaken on its benefit.
The Value of Healthcare
written by leftover, February 02, 2014 11:49
Vicco, Ky endorses HR 676, Single Payer healthcare.
The struggling coal town of 334 people unanimously endorsed Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676, national single payer legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Vicco—established by the Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company—is now the fourth Kentucky local government to favor Single Payer Healthcare. The others are Metro Louisville, Boyle County, and the City of Morehead. In 2007, the Kentucky House legislators also endorsed the bill.
I remember when the ACA was being voted on
written by Tom Allen, February 02, 2014 12:46
liberals who objected to the intensely corporate-friendly provisions were told, "Pass it now and we'll fix it later." So now, five years later, I'm assuming that one of the things Democrats will run on in the midterms is improving Obamacare, right? Like adding a public option, or a Medicare buy-in, or drug importation, or something?

Or are we going to be treated to another year of the Democratic establishment praising the law to the rafters and shouting down anyone who criticizes it from the left? "Defend it now and we'll fix it later." I wonder what the over/under is on that.
written by urban legend, February 02, 2014 1:19
Tom --

You should take what zot23 says very seriously and ditch the attitude. There was nothing particularly corporate-friendly about the requirement that no more than 20% of revenues could be spent on administration and profits, and as it is shaking out -- as it has with Romneycare -- non-profits probably will be dominating the exchanges.

Having said that, you are dead-on that Democratic candidates for Congress in close races can do themselves a world of good by advocating new discussion of a public option (which in my minds includes as one scenario Medicare buy-in). They need to establish space from Obama now, improvement is where the public is, an inexpensive non-profit public option would be the improvement they could most relate to, and hardly anything would do more to generate an enthusiastic, progressive get-out-the-vote workforce than advocating a public option. Above anything, they need turnout. For-it-but-fix-it -- anything to drive the cost down even more -- is the way to go.

Lifting restrictions on drug importation will be a good position, too, but there may be political costs for that in some races. There is no significant downside to simply advocating renewed discussion of a public option.
What's Fair is Fair: If Some Freeloaders Deserve Mugshots, Then All Freeloaders Deserve Mugshots
written by Last Mover, February 02, 2014 1:56
He was used to answering late-night calls from patients panicked over chest pains but afraid to go to the emergency room lest they incur thousands of dollars in bills and wind up with their name published in the newspaper, which is how the local for-profit hospital went about collecting bills.

“I’m always hearing, ‘I don’t want to get my name in that paper,’?” he said.

What a disgrace. Only in America.

Here's a thought. Why not treat the economic predators who kept health care from these people the same way?

Put their picture in the paper captioned with Health Care Predator claims more victims with obscene overcharges, ineffective treatment, denial of treatment and useless insurance ... compared to single payer based on efficiency and minimum cost.

Treat it like the mugshot websites that make their victims pay to take them down. Advise the predators if they want the mugshot taken down, they will have to cough up the freeloading monopoly economic rent with no added value they have been extracting from what patients could afford it for decades, leaving the rest to spin in the wind.

What's fair is fair, and that includes freeloaders.
Value of Super Bowl Headliner is Zero to the NFL
written by Robert Salzberg, February 02, 2014 5:19
Bruno Mars will get nothing for his Super Bowl halftime performance. NFL cheerleaders generally don't get paid for practicing and so end up with less than minimum wage for their work. Meanwhile, the NFL is a non-profit organization that has mounted a massive campaign to deny concussions cause permanent brain damage.

Happy Superbowl Sunday Wonk dip.
I am a physician
written by Stephen, February 02, 2014 9:48

I am a physician at a large hospital system and do much of my own medical coding. I take issue with your comment that Insurance Companies, Doctors, Drug/Supply Companies are ripping off America. Leave the Insurance Companies out of this. They do not rip off America nearly as much as us doctors do.
written by watermelonpunch, February 02, 2014 10:40
"LoL" Who saw that one coming?

And thumbs up to Last Mover for catching the most poignant part of the whole piece.

@ zot23
Thanks for sharing your own personal story.
I'm on the other side of things and have not had insurance, and still won't.
But I still see that we're much much better off with even a less than ideal ACA - than we were without it.
I think people are right to criticize the flaws, but I think it's also wholly stupid to think that the endeavour should be abandoned.
I see this dichotomy though is a like a plague on everything in our society, and I think the divisiveness is actually hindering our ability in the U.S. to be a nation with a civilization. (ie: civilized!)
written by EMichael, February 03, 2014 8:16
by Tom Allen, February 02, 2014 1:46
liberals who objected to the intensely corporate-friendly provisions were told, "Pass it now and we'll fix it later."

You need to understand that this was in relation to the difference between the house and senate versions of the ACA, and not related to amending the bill which is obviously an impossibility.
written by zot23, February 03, 2014 9:25
Just as an extra note, we settled on a co-op for our health plan. Not that it was much cheaper, it just seemed a solid plan for the price.

To Tom, I agree and was very pissed when it first became law (as opposed to a medicare for all type plan or including a public option) and without the tax credits it would still be unaffordable for our family. The benefit of where we are now though is that all we need muster for political will is to add a public option. The shift is healthcare has been initiated and there a solid political groundwork to build upon. In polly-wonk speak, the Overton window has moved from Ron Paul arguing we should pay doctors in chickens to having a transparent exchange where you can expect to be able to compare policies and request assistance. That's a big step IMHO.

The fight isn't over, but we're in a much better position to add what needs to be added now than we were before the ACA was implemented. The will isn't there at this moment, but if it solidified in the future, it's going to be much easier to act on that impulse.
written by Matchoo, February 03, 2014 12:11
I'm not personally affected in the short term (employer plan for now will last at least through 2014), but it's
pretty predictable that people on the dole (i.e. those who get it with "subsidies" or "tax credits") like Obamacare, and those who actually have to pay their way don't.
written by trish, February 03, 2014 1:08
obama corporate care helps some of the dirt poor through medicaid extension in select states, but a lot of poor people will remain uninsured and many will die early and unnecessary deaths.


Obamacare gold mine for the insurance companies is now entrenched in our bought-and-paid-for govt and makes the likelihood of medicare for all ever happening even slimmer.
written by bobby, February 03, 2014 2:53

While you are making yachts for people who pay cash, others actually depend upon the not-so-rich to buy their products.

As Mr. Strummer sang:

When you're out to get the honey
you don't go killing all the bees.

The companion WaPo article ...
written by Benedict@Large, February 03, 2014 3:13
... should be included for contrast. ...

"In rural Georgia, federal health insurance marketplace proves unaffordable to many"

Seems the blessings for some are not so widely shared.

[Note that this article is attributed to Kaiser.]
Want a good ObamaCare story?
written by Benedict@Large, February 03, 2014 3:48
Any time anyone wants a story about how ObamaCare is a good thing, find someone with a pre-existing condition who had no insurance. Voila! You have your story. It's really that simple.

Now eliminate EITHER of those conditions. Still have your good story? Probably not. It's really that simple.
written by watermelonpunch, February 04, 2014 11:43
written by Matchoo, February 03, 2014 1:11
I'm not personally affected in the short term (employer plan for now will last at least through 2014),

Then you are on the dole too.

Your employer plan amounts to TAX FREE INCOME.

Your health care is tax subsidized.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.