As I scanned through my Google Reader like a good lil blogger, I came across Beating Broke’s post, Will health insurance rates rise now?
The title is pretty self-explanatory, I would think. Just to be clear though, BB’s main concern was his employer’s health coverage — namely that his company would cover a small portion of a bigger premium, leaving him holding a bigger chunk of the cost.
I started writing my comment in response (which turned into three — sorry BB!) but was waylaid by a memory that came out along the way. I need to share it with you. I’ll try to make it brief (but you guys know that’s not my strong suit).
It was October, and Tim and I had been together for all of five months. He had been at the company for three months, which wasn’t long enough to get insurance. Meanwhile, his skin had been bad for awhile. He had already fought off a couple of staph infections. When he had one, his skin healed in this weird, shiny pattern. It also had the tendency (thanks to the eczema) to heal quickly and “freeze” a limb in place. So, if his arm was bent, for example, the skin would heal too short for him to straighten it. He made a lot of Tin Man jokes during this period in time.
This particular infection, though, wasn’t going away. His employer actually ended up driving Tim to the hospital in the middle of the day. He even threw a fit when someone tried to say the dermatologists were off for the day. It’s amazing how quickly dermatologists will be called in if you have the right person barking orders!
It turns out that the infection had gotten into Tim’s blood. He had to have IV antibiotics, tons of medicine and ointments and probably all sorts of stuff that I didn’t see during visiting hours. Point is, it was all pretty terrifying for me; Tim was too out of it to register some of the finer details. (His body was just trying to keep him unconscious so it could heal.) But I got to hear all the fabulous phrases like “the staph is actually in his blood.”
They let him go the following evening, laden with ointments, prescriptions and some sleep suits for bad breakouts. He was there perhaps 30 hours. The bill, when it came, was over $2,000. Thanks to hospital charity, it was covered 100 percent. Still, it was a terrifying reminder about the frailty of the uninsured.
It’s this kind of thing that I recall when people start talking about how health costs will go up. How much higher up do they have to go, exactly? I think people who ask this haven’t been uninsured recently.
As I pointed out to Beating Broke, health costs already go up. Every year. My mom’s insurance rates rose so much between years that she ended up switching companies — and she didn’t have many charges on her bill. The fact is that insurance companies have never needed a reason to raise premiums. I truly don’t understand why people are so worried about it now.
I’m guessing the question people mean to ask is, “If the rates went up so much without a case, what happens when there is one?”
Well, employers will have a pretty good incentive not to pass those costs on to you. If employees are paying too high a premium, the employers will be subject to a tax. The hope is that this will keep your company alert for good health care plans. (Incidentally, small businesses — under 50 employees — are exempt.) And if employers are worried about incurring extra taxes, they will probably be a little more demanding about reasonable premiums.
I have all sorts of things I could preach about here. (Like how we already pay increased costs for the uninsured because it’s taxpayer money that funds hospital shortfalls from non-payment of bills.) But everyone’s talked about this stuff already. People who have been in these situations get the sheer absurdity of our current system. Those who haven’t… I just pray they never have to find out firsthand how broken the system is.
Maybe there should be a ride in each amusement park where you go through life without insurance. It could involve smaller activities like “Don’t step on that rusty nail” House of Mirrors, “Oops, broken arm” Bounce House, “Hey diabetes!” cotton candy or “I hope this is the flu, not pneumonia” Log Ride.
Whatever. I’m just goofy with happiness that, soon, you won’t be denied coverage just because you, ya know, actually need it!