My own health care reform

by phil on Wednesday Mar 24, 2010 3:47 AM

My mom asked me if I was sick with swine flu. I told her no, I wasn't. In fact, I had got the shot a month ago, when I saw a sign "H1N1 shot $18" while I was driving in the parking lot of my local grocery store. I looked at the time, realized I had some to spare, and said, "Why not?" Obama said I should get one after all.

If you really want small government, shouldn't you elect a weak president? In which case, Ron Paul would fit the bill, because he seems like he'd make a terrible leader (he'd just stand up there, cite Austrian economists and veto most bills). That, and there's a frailty in his voice that is very un-Presidential.

If Obama says I should get a flu shot, I'll get it. After all, I voted for the guy. (Yes, it's okay to tell people who you voted for). But, maybe there's a problem with electing a strong leader. Doesn't it make us, as individuals, weaker? If anything, Bush taught us to not rely on the President (and by extension, the federal government) for hope. I was reminded of this idea by The Week, which in its roundup of international reactions to Obamacare's passage, quoted The Register:

By using "every stick at his disposal to beat his parliamentary party into submission," Obama has become an "elected dictator...I cannot see a freedom-loving people putting up with such a figure for long."
It is true, that as the effectiveness of a president increases, the more like a dictator he becomes. Hmm.

Further on the topic of healthcare reform, I had a very fortuitous meeting with a health insurance agent today! Yes, today! The day after health care reform was signed, I had a representative from American Republic in my room, selling me on a new health insurance plan.

But before we dig into the details of that meeting, let's go back to the beginning, all the way back to June of 2007, when Sicko came out. That was, in my opinion, when this current health care thread actually started. It made health care one of the main election issues for 2008, and for me, it planted the thought that a healthy, middle-class guy like me could have a tragic run-in with the insurance industry, being bankrupted through rescission or claims rejection.

So since I'm not the kind of person who just prays and hopes things get better, I decided to embark on reforming my own health care. Unfortunately, while Sicko gave me all this energy and enthusiasm back in 2007 (not unlike the enthusiasm that ushered in Obama), due to a number of procrastinations and internal filibusters, nothing got done for many months. My excuse is that I was busy fixing my personal economy (finding not just one, but two new jobs). Until finally, a month ago I set an appointment with an agent from American Republic. There was small snag, though, as I had to get ready for the SXSW mega-festival, and so this meeting got pushed back a couple weeks (just as Obama was pushing back his Asia trip). Until coincidentally, I met with the agent today, twenty-two hours after Obama signed the health care bill twenty-two times.

After the handshakes and pleasantries with the agent, whose figure hinted at former High School football glory, our meeting immediately struck one ironic note after another. He began by asking me why I wanted to switch insurance companies in the first place. I replied, "Well, I saw the ratings for my current health insurance provider, and they were really bad, and I just didn't want to end up like those horror stories on—Wait, does that even matter now? Do I even have to worry about this?" The agent started shaking his legs anxiously, which I could tell he'd been doing for most of the day. He then pointed out that with my current insurance provider, the wording of my plan says I'm covered for "reasonable hospital care" which he said was code for, "we're going to squeeze you out as much as possible." I replied, "But I read online that Obamacare includes an appeals process for this." He then answered, "Yeah, sure, you'll get an appeal, but they'll argue that an extra day at the hospital isn't reasonable, and so you're still screwed."

So far so good. Fielding questions from this customer who does his homework (i.e. the customer from hell) is no easy task. Feeling confident, he started up-selling me some options. He asked me whether I wanted to lock-in my premium for three-years for only 8% more (annual inflation rates are around 3.5%). I smirked and said, "Well hell yes I want to lock those in. Aren't premiums supposed to go up after Obamacare?" Which, after I said that, I realized how much of a Rorschach test this whole meeting was. If I truly was an Obama fan, wouldn't I trust the Democrats who said premiums would go down?"

To the agent's (and American Republic's) credit, he humored my curiosity, as I took about an hour of his time not only working through the implications of Obamacare, but also in trying to finally understand non-self-explanatory terms like coinsurance, deductible, and first-dollar coverage. The only term that didn't need much explaining Cadillac, used in the context of "comprehensive medical coverage" plans, which brought up another thought, "Wait, I heard Obama is going to tax those?"

After describing all the plans, the agent urged me to sign up, at least partially so I could be processed by underwriting, to which I replied, "Wait, will underwriting even be necessary? I mean you can't deny me for pre-existing conditions." "Those protections don't take effect until 2014, actually." Touché.

"Okay, I'll think about it."

If this was a few months ago, when the odds of Obamacare passing were lower than 50%, I probably would've signed right then and there, with twenty-two pens even. Instead, I can sit comfortably with an improved peace-of-mind, knowing now that its very unlikely I will ever go bankrupt for a medical reason or that, despite the crappy ratings of my current insurance provider, I'm protected somehow.

While everybody should think about their health insurance as much as I do, the presence of Obamacare lets us relax a little. But is this what we really bought into? To be under the calming effects of a great dictator?

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