Like a lot of other Americans, I absolutely hate the idea of the federal government wandering in and taking over the nation’s health care system.
But I’ll be damned if the insurance companies don’t make us understand just why some people are claiming the health care system is broken and is in need of radical repair. Here’s the problem – health care insurance companies are simply brimming with some of the most impersonal and money-grubbing decision makers to be found anywhere. Indeed, it’s hard as hell to cozy up to them and argue – with a straight face – that they’re out to do little more than collect premiums and deny as many claims as possible.
It’s rather like being bullied by a mean, fat kid in school. Everyone hates the mean, fat kid who pushes people down, takes their lunch money and generally makes their lives hell. If a fatter, meaner kid shows up and promises to beat up the bully, then it’s no surprise that the newcomer has his share of fans.
Of course, it could be that the fatter, meaner kid will simply depose his rival and make everyone more miserable than they already are, but the hope is there that things will somehow improve. People might be better off with the original bully, but who the hell wants to rush and defend him?
Those of us who oppose the health care reform being shoved through Washington right now face the same dilemma. Sure, we can argue all day long about the erosion of freedoms, the questionable constitutionality of having the government force everyone to have some kind of insurance, etc.
But we’re really just defending a despicable bully. Yes, we may be better off letting that fat bastard continue to bilk the American population instead of letting the feds hang us out to dry, but that’s not the kind of argument that resonates with people, is it?
It’s hard not to understand why a lot of folks hate the health insurance industry as it is today. Let me tell you folks a story.
Last year I had the greatest health insurance plan on the planet. We’re talking about something that covered everything with no co-pays. A fairly high deductible was part of that package, but my company paid the deductible, meaning I had one hell of a benefit. Health care insurance that treats everything and costs absolutely nothing is more than appealing to a cat like me who has ulcerative colitis and spends a ton of cash on medication every month.
Ah, but that former plan is expensive. With businesses cutting back everywhere, the office started looking for less expensive alternatives to the plan we had.
Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield slimed its way into our office one day and promised to offer the same plan for a lot less money. Yes, it would be great! We were assured that all would be well with the company’s wonderful plan – we’d save money and everything would be covered just as it had always been.
I’ve got two prescriptions that I’m supposed to take until (I suppose) I drop dead or they jerk my colon out due to cancer or something equally vile. I refilled them and went to pick them up tonight. My pharmacist told me that Blue Cross – the company that promised us the moon, of course – had denied one of my medications and recommended some over-the-counter garbage. I'm actually surprised the wise folks at Blue Cross didn't suggest buying a bottle of Tums and hoping for the best.
There are two things fascinating about all of that. First of all, it appears that the Blue Cross rep who sold us her particular bill of goods was lying through her teeth. She was told what my medications were when we signed up (I’ve saved an email through which her company asked about some particular information about those drugs) and I was told all would be well under the wonderful Blue Cross plan. Unless things have changed dramatically since I quit practicing law 10 years ago, one can make the argument that she bound her company to the promise she made to me. I’ll take that up with her (very loudly, I imagine) in the morning.
Second, we’ve heard a lot about how one of the problems with the government running the health care industry is that the days in which medical decisions are between patients and their doctors will come to an end. When an insurance company interferes with that process the way they’re trying to do in my case, couldn’t we argue that those days are already dead and gone?
For folks wondering about the illustration at the top of this post, that’s BlueAnn Ewe – the cute and cuddly mascot of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. BlueAnn Ewe. Like “Blue and you.” Get it? Yes, Arkansas Blue Cross has presented itself as our partner in good health by dreaming up a cutesy sheep.
Beware of companies that hide behind cute mascots. They tend to have a lot to hide.
At any rate, defending jackals like Blue Cross and Blue Shield is hard to do. Whether we wind up with the same rotten system we’ve got or some federal-run monstrosity, I figure most of us folks who work for a living are still going to take a beating. We’re ultimately just arguing over whether to substitute one misery causing bully with another – an uncomfortable situation that should be painfully familiar to anyone with presidential elections since 1988.