Monday, May 18, 2009


That's the amount of increase in the Spousal Unit's Blue Shield of California health insurance premiums this time around. His doctor's medical group is no longer in the Blue Shield network. The monthly premium goes up but the amount of coverage goes down. The hospital deduction went from $200 per day to a few dollars short of $800. One week in the hospital jumped from $1400 to $5600 overnight.

Of course, that assumes you get admitted in the first place.

At a time when there is no inflation, when California is suffering massive unemployment, and when businesses of all sizes are struggling to stay open (we'll worry about solvency later), private health insurance is jacking up the prices by 14%. And that's after negotiations.

The Spousal Unit is a healthy guy, aside from his failing eyesight. His only health problem, a bad back, was cleared up years ago by some physical therapy and an ergonomic office chair.

We bought the chair ourselves because the company couldn't afford it. They do pay 100% of health insurance premiums. On the other hand, his last paycheck, which should have been deposited on the 15th, is sitting in his wallet waiting for when there is money in the bank. This is often the case for small businesses, even in the glamorous world of high-tech; the trade off for the smaller environment is a willingness to be flexible about when the paycheck goes in.

Of course, the paycheck would go in a lot sooner if it weren't for the price gouging of the health insurance industry.

As if knowing our personal news of the day, Mark Thoma of The Economist's View links to Robert Reich's latest article, The Health Care Cave-In:

The Health Care Cave-In, by Robert Reich: "Don't make the perfect the enemy of the better" is a favorite slogan in Washington because compromise is necessary to get anything done. But the way things are going with health care, a better admonition would be: "Don't give away the store."

Many experts have long agreed that a so-called "single-payer" plan is the ideal... Not surprisingly, insurance and drug companies have been dead-set against a single payer for years. And they've so frightened the public into thinking that "single payer" means loss of choice of doctor (that's wrong -- many single payer plans in other nations allow choices of medical deliverers) that politicians no longer even mention it.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama pushed a compromise -- a universal health plan that would include a "public insurance option" resembling Medicare, which individual members of the public and their families could choose if they wished. This Medicare-like option would at least be able to negotiate low rates and impose some discipline on private insurers.

But now the Medicare-like option is being taken off the table. Insurance and drug companies have thrown their weight around the Senate. And, sadly, the White House -- eager to get a bill enacted in 2009 rather than risk it during the mid-term election year of 2010 -- is signaling it's open to other approaches. ...

It's still possible that the House could come up with a real Medicare-like public option and that Senate Dems could pass it under a reconciliation bill needing just 51 votes. But it won't happen without a great deal of pressure from the White House and the public. Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and the rest of Big Med are pushing hard in the opposite direction. And Democrats are now giving away the store. As things are now going, we'll end up with a universal health-care bill this year that politicians, including our President, will claim as a big step forward when it's really a step sideways.

Sideways? I could deal with sideways. How about backwards? I don't yet know what is going to happen to my health insurance premiums this round. I pay part of them and I will pay a larger part this year because of a 6% cut in payroll and benefits imposed on my company.

I wonder if more than 14% of the population is completely secure in their health insurance? Between falling wages, lagging employment and the-sky's-the-limit insurance costs, what portion of the population is not a pink slip - or a slip on the sidewalk - away from health care ruin?

Since he won't be able to keep his doctor anyway, the Spousal Unit is probably going to switch to Kaiser. He's lucky he has that option. I'm lucky I work for a company so short-staffed that they can't afford to let me go if I get sick. I'm also lucky my bout of flu last month didn't turn into pneumonia, something I'm at risk for due to a congenital lung deformity. We're lucky that we could probably cough up the extra cash if one of us became seriously ill.

Basic health care should not be a matter of luck.


PS - If you care about health care, throw some dollars at the indefatigable DC Blogger whose blog on Corrente is a must-read to know the sorry political state of affairs of health care.


lori said...

One thing that jumped out at me in Reich's column is his claim that Obama's health care plan offered up a public insurance option - no, it did not. Edwards' plan and Clinton's plan did, but Obama's didn't. At least, not as far as I know. If I'm wrong about that, I'll stand corrected.

Koshem Bos said...

From my experience, physician reimbursement by health insurance companies is very low and it's doubtful that it can go much lower.

Most standard medications have fixed cost and generic lower them in time.

Procedures such as an MRI and ct-scan maintain their cost for quite a long time.

Hospital, complex procedure and specialized drugs may be rising in cost, but I doubt that they take up 14% of the total cost.

It seems that the raise of 14% takes place because the health insurance companies can get away with it without angering us who are enslaved to them.

More and more one realizes that the main reason for a middle and a lower than that classes is to enrich companies and their management even even more.

As Dr. Himmelfarb from Harvard said the other day, that the CEO of Aethna makes $225,000 a day. We pay for it.