A Glimpse of a Future with a Public Option
The New York Times ran an interesting piece on the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan today. Whenever we read of job losses, we also read of people losing their health insurance and being one illness away from financial ruin. Despite the economic tailspin, the Times reports that the number of children enrolling in health insurance is actually increasing due to SCHIP:
"Despite budgets ravaged by the recession, at least 13 states have invested millions of dollars this year to cover 250,000 more children with subsidized government health insurance.
The expansions have come in the five months since Congress and President Obama used the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to vastly increase its funding and encourage states to increase enrollment. Although the federal government covers the vast majority of the cost, states set their own eligibility levels and must decide whether to spend state money in order to draw even more from Washington."
The fact that this program is helping the number of insured children grow in this economy proves that the public option currently on the table would work. There are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions under SCHIP. All of the bills currently being considered by Congress ban insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, ban the practice of rescinding cancer patients’ coverage because of things like previous bouts with acne, and ban the practice of charging those with pre-existing conditions higher premiums than healthy individuals.
The current poor practices of the insurance industry are why 11.4 million chronically ill Americans are uninsured. Like SCHIP, all of the bills currently being considered by Congress have strong subsidies for the people who make under 30,000 dollars a year. The Times reported on how subsidies have allowed children to obtain insurance:
"The broadening of eligibility has made a profound difference for parents like Vicky and Dewayne McIntyre of Yakima, Wash. When their state lifted the income cutoff for its program to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (or $54,930 for their family of three) from 250 percent (or $45,775), the McIntyres learned that their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, had become eligible for the first time.
Sarah, who endured lung surgery at 3 and heart surgery at 6 and now has asthma, had been uninsured for a year. “We were into credit card debt and payday loans,” said Ms. McIntyre, 41, who works part time in a store to supplement her husband’s income as a welder. “Her medicine at one point was $880 a month, and we had to pay cash, so we were struggling. It is such a relief now that I can just take her to the doctor if I need to and get her medicine.”
The stories of those who go bankrupt, avoid needed medical care and develop severe complications because of the fact that they fall through the cracks of the current health care system would be fewer and farer between if the House bill passes. The CBO estimates that 97% of Americans would be insured by the adoption of an insurance exchange which includes a strong public option and strict regulation of the health care industry. If we adopt the House bill, and the strong public option which it includes, when we read about people losing their jobs over the next ten years, we will not be reading about people losing their insurance and access to medical care too. Insurance companies, who make their profits off of purging customers with chronic illnesses from their insurance plans, know this; it’s why they’re spending $1.4 million a day to defeat the House bill.
But surely this must be an expensive plan that would bankrupt the government you say? According to the CBO, the government would actually save $6 billion over ten years by adopting the House bill. Simply put, there are no excuses for voting to keep 48 million uninsured Americans in the waiting room for decades by voting against the House bill.