Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Health Insurance Just Went Up $200. Dare to Argue with Me That We Don't Need a Public Option?

Every year, like most people, I get a little raise. This is nice. This is happy-making.

And every year, after a month or two to enjoy that extra bit o'money, my health insurance premiums go up, and my paycheck reverses direction.

It's depressing, but I'm used to it.

Today, I picked up my much-needed paycheck, however, and found that I now earn $200 less than I did last month because both my medical and dental insurance costs went up.

No little increase in costs this time. Try a huge leap in costs. One so big that despite all the raises, I now earn the same as I did three years ago.

I was despondent after staring at all the little numbers on the lower left-hand side of my check. Two hundred fewer dollars a month. What am I going to do?

At first I was shocked, then I was sad, and now I am filled with self-pity, which is irritating (I can't stand it in other people, but sometimes all you can do is wallow in it).

I don't understand why this is happening to me, why I have to struggle with seemingly less money (or the same money) every year. I work SO HARD. Honestly. I try to be the very best teacher I can be. I am actually very talented, kind, assiduous, devoted.

Our American meritocracy seems like a sick joke right now (pun fully intended). If there's anyone who has merit, I know that it's me, and yet...what good has it done me?

Maybe it's my own fault for choosing a lower-paying, if honorable, career. Maybe I was just born at the wrong time in history. Maybe nothing my generation experiences will ever be easy.

Health insurance premiums, among other issues--especially the rising costs of literally everything--could render us helpless and utterly insecure, financially. I know I will hardly be able to save for retirement, and God knows there won't be pensions for any of us to depend on.

Maybe none of my generation's kids will even be able to attend college, because seriously, how are we ever going to afford those tuition bills? Or. more realistically, how will our kids ever be able to repay them?

Economic horror faces us right now, so scary that I don't even want to think about it. Yet, there is one thing I know that can be done to make it better: we can try to stem the ever-rising costs of health insurance by reforming the healthcare system now.

Adding a public option will force private insurers to lower their rates to stay competitive. Getting the uninsured able to afford some coverage will lower medical costs for all of us. (Maybe then hospitals will stop charging $300 per tablet of Tylenol, just to make up for the fact that some people have no insurance!)

I hope that people who were on the fence about healthcare reform will now start to see how important it is. Even if you personally don't want or need it, there are many Americans who do. And reform is something we need to have in order to ease the financial pinch on younger workers.

So, please--even if you don't see the need for change in your own healthcare, please don't stand in the way of positive national change. I know that we each do the best we can, but I have trouble seeing how yelling, scowling, and finger-pointing (and just generally acting like viragos at town hall meetings) is the best we can do. This type of behavior also makes foreigners laugh at us...

Please think of the future generations. Think of people who don't have health insurance--through simple bad luck, lack of money, no fault of their own. Our profit-driven system is broken and it's failing us, bankrupting us. If we don't reform our fractured, cruel system, more people will suffer and die--probably penniless. How can that be good for America?

Also consider this: how can something that is really for the public benefit--health insurance--be privately run and profit-driven? It can't. The private system only works by denying care and constantly raising premiums. Insurers aren't in the business of selling us health care because they want to help us live longer; they want to help themselves make money. Remember that.

Healthcare should be about protecting health--not corporate coffers or CEO bonuses. And healthcare should be something we each have, a benefit not tied to a job that could be downsized at any moment. You don't own your healthcare the way things are now--but if we pass reforms, you certainly could!

Finally, keep in mind that most people see that healthcare needs changing, but even if you don't want to change YOUR health insurance, some people genuinely need lower-priced, budget-friendly and more secure options that will help them afford their lives and protect their families. Press for change to help the people who need it.

And if you have Medicare and like it, why not let other people have the same privilege as you currently enjoy? No one wants to take away your precious Medicare (well, some people do, and ironically, those are the people who oppose the public option! Did you know that? I am thinking of you, Mr. Boehner).

So, please, call your Congress person; urge him or her to vote for health care reform so that the people who need it will get some relief.

Until that happens, I need to find another way to make up for the newly-lost $200. I don't know how I'm going to do it. Still, I will cheer on the champions who are trying to save us...and hope that the opponents to healthcare reform will finally see the light.


  1. Agreed. I couldn't have said it better myself, other than I take care of a cancer patient who is getting royally screwed right now.

  2. I hate those sorts of stories--and there are so many of them!

    A few cranky types were protesting health care reform today in my area. So lame. So misguided.

    I can't wait to watch the reform bills finally pass...

  3. I'm a foreigner and I'm definitely not laughing.

    Except at the idiots that have recently used our British NHS system as some kind of shining example of how wrong a reformed healtcare system can go.

    The NHS is filled with overworked people, it's erratically paid for by government funding and taxation so it doesn't have enough money, it's riddled with bureacracy and it needs an overhaul and spring-clean.

    However - my mum has just had major surgery for a condition that would have killed her by Christmas, and since she has no money and could not afford health insurance, she wouldn't have been able to pay. But the NHS took her in and gave her surgery and sent her home again, for free. Because that's what healthcare is supposed to do. It's not about preventing people from living, it's about preventing them from dying. It's not supposed to deny you the chance to live. That's really broken.

    I'm appalled how for some people in the States, healthcare reform has become some kind of abstract "this is infringing our freedom" call to arms, a big new stick to hit the new President with. But it's not a point of political philosophy. It's not abstract. It's about changing a system that clearly does not work for the average American.

    But there are a lot of idiots who are fighting change because it's change, and because of who is offering that change.

    Well, why not having a two-scale system? They can keep and use the existing healthcare system: everyone else can have a reformed one. Surely that sorts out everything nicely? ;)

  4. Mike,

    I am so glad to have a Brit chiming in here, because you would not believe (or no, probably you would believe it, because you're certainly aware of it) how many people opposed to reform here cite the British NHS as some horrible evil...when it seems people there like it quite a bit.

    I am sure that no program is without its problems, but all this craziness here is akin to the McCarthyism, and Reagan's Red Scare of just doesn't make sense.

    At the very least, we need to have the option. I always say that if someone can afford to buy private insurance then great. Great for them. People who find it hard to afford health insurance need a public option. This will also make us less subject to the whims of our outrageously priced insurers...

    I think I myself am somewhere in between--but what I really want is not to have to rely on an employer to have health insurance. I should be able to buy it on my own, and right now, our system makes that very difficult.

    Having both a private and public option is what we need.

    Thanks for reading and writing!