Health Insurance: Good Luck

Insurance
Insurance (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

If anyone ever questioned whether or not US healthcare is political, they should now be convinced that it is. What with the drama of Obamacare, that Texan Tea Partier/Green Eggs and Ham reading/White Castle hamburger loving/Obamacare hating Senator Cruz, and then the looming shutdown of the federal government.  Not to mention Vanderbilt Medical Center’s recent creative administrators’ cost-cutting move to require nursing staff to take over housekeeping duties, for which they invoked the ghost of Nightingale (yes, HER again!) as the rationale behind their decision. Oh Nightingale! Rise up and smite them with a mop!

And then there is the desperate, mostly behind-the-scenes scramble for state health exchanges to be up and working by this coming Tuesday, October 1, when they are all slated to open for business. As described in today’s NYT article, many state exchanges will most likely be delayed. I especially like the article’s photograph of a roomful of intensely-working computer programmers trying to fix things for Oregon’s health exchange. I wonder how many of those workers have health insurance, and if not, how many of them now understand how to shop for and purchase health insurance once the system they’re working on is functional. Many of them do not look healthy.

My son, age 26, recently aged out of my health insurance plan. He was able to stay on my plan thanks to that provision of Obamacare. For the past few months he has been one of the many ‘young invincibles‘ (or ‘young invisibles’ perhaps?) who has no health insurance. Of course, I bug him constantly about this and want him to be insured. He’s now in graduate school at the University of Washington and is now eligible to purchase their student health insurance plan. The annual fee for one student (including 2014 ACA fees/whatever that means) is $2,748. School started this week, the earliest he would qualify for the insurance. I just checked their website and it has a statement marked urgent: “due to a system error some students who registered for Autumn quarter have had their coverage cancelled.”

This is complex stuff. I have a doctorate in health policy, teach, live and breathe health policy, and I can’t figure it out. Our healthcare system, especially the health insurance scene, has always been complicated, but I’m convinced that this specific part of Obamacare is creating more problems than it solves. It adds layers of administrative complexity and a huge burden (time and frustration–heart attacks anyone?) on consumers to ‘shop and pick a plan.’ These add up to a substantial increase of costs and inefficiencies in our already overly costly, inefficient, ineffectual healthcare system.

The best (mostly fully functional that I’ve seen) interactive tool for consumers ‘explaining’ ACA/Obamacare in more or less vernacular (English and Spanish), is Consumer Report’s Healthlaw Helper. Good luck.

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