I am going to weigh in on an issue that has gotten a lot of press since its inception, Affordable Health Care Act.
Before I start let me say this is an opinion piece and is based on my own personal observation and I am not claiming to be an expert.
Let me also say that although there are those that blindly agree with the act and those that blindly oppose the act, what I am going to say will probably tick both sides off.
I believe that we are in a serious situation with our health care in this country. Prices have escalated to the point in which many like myself are being burdened with expensive, almost financially crippling insurance premiums.
Yet, on the other hand, should we find ourselves in a hospital or involved in some long-term health care illness, that too is a crippling financial burden we cannot afford.
The alternative for those like me is to tighten our belts and pay the premiums.
This is the scary part. I have friends who have been in the hospital for such issues as heart surgery, hip replacements and cancer surgeries. The bills that they have generated for those surgeries is astronomical and without their high-cost health insurance it would have bankrupted them on the spot.
I don’t like statistics, but here are a few that I will use to make my point (look them up yourself if you don’t like mine): it cost about $117,000 for heart by-pass, a hip replacement is $39,000, prostate cancer surgery runs about $40,000 and breast cancer surgery is $100,000. These figures are just averages and some could be less, but those that I know about are much, much more.
None of this includes time off from work, loss of wages or recovery issues.
Now, for my own experience.
I was in the hospital in 1973 for stomach problems. I was there for three days and had several tests. The cost was about $1,100 of which my insurance (provided by my employer) paid 80 percent and I paid 20 percent (or $220).
My father was in the hospital in January of 1970 for two weeks; part of that was in intensive care. He passed away and we received a bill from the hospital for $1,500 and he had only a small daily benefit policy at the time.
Those bills today would be astronomical.
While I’m on the subject, let me say that I have no way of paying 20 percent of a $200,000 hospital bill nor do many people I know.
So here is what I see: I believe the Affordable Health Care Act falls short of even working on the problem, let alone fixing it.
That is being proved by the postponement of the act involving businesses this summer for another year.
I see this problem as a two-prong issue: the cost of health insurance and the cost of health care.
That cannot be fixed with such a broad, sweeping act.
There are parts of this act that are good – the idea of insuring everyone is a noble cause; guaranteed insurability and preventive services – but in reality it cannot be obtained until the health care system itself changes.
There are flaws as well: Medicare tax increase and health insurance provider annual fees (which will be passed on to the consumer) are just a few of the ways this is to be funded, again placing the burden of the cost on taxpayers.
One issue about this that bothers me the most is the individual mandate that everyone must purchase health insurance that is not covered under their employer, Medicare, Medicaid or a state health insurance plan.
The last time we had a mandate so broad was during Prohibition and we know that worked out extremely well.
By the way, that same mandate idea is behind our vehicle insurance requirements and nearly one in four of the people you meet on the road in Florida have no insurance.
I could go on and on about this act, but I’ll cut to the chase.
In my opinion, we should take a long hard look at this and accept first that we have a problem.
There needs to be a way to lower health care costs without bankrupting health care providers.
I’ll give you an example. Medicare and Medicaid only pay about 30 percent of the billed charges (in some cases they pay set fees).
I had a relative that was in an accident 20 years ago and the insurance company actually settled the bill at much less than was actually billed.
I believe that this act should be tweaked to fix that problem (overcharging) and many more.
One last thing, if you disagree with me, that’s fine.
But this act works two ways and the best example I can think of is the recent revelation by UPS to not cover spouses of non-union employees.
Add that to the number of employers who may be willing to pay the fines instead of providing health insurance or cutting back full time employees.