I HEAR THAT CRASH A'COMIN - Healthcare Disaster Lurking 'Round The Bend

(09/12/2003)

By Bob Weaver

Health insurance is an exception rather than a rule in most rural West Virginia counties.

Wages have stayed stagnant and health care premiums have skyrocketed.

This year has been the biggest increase - 14 percent, the largest such increase since 1990.

Employees are paying 50 percent more for family medical coverage than they did just three years ago, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust in Washington.

Out-of-pocket payment for an insurance policy is only for the well-to-do. Employers paying for health care has continued because benefits have been reduced, deductibles expanded and co-pays increased.

Health providers like Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center have thankfully managed to provide services through government grants and programs, not through the marketplace of the insurance industry.

America spends more money by far on healthcare than any other country.

The insurance companies and providers both claim they are not making ends meet.

Physicians who have long complained about malpractice costs, are finally having the situation addressed somewhat, but it is highly unlikely to stop the spiraling costs.

"Within two years, the average family insurance premium is going to be above $14,000. That's astronomic. That's double since 2001," says Dr. Henry Simmons, president of the National Coalition on Health Care. "It's just not sustainable."

The head of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of West Virginia told a West Virginia legislative committee two years ago, family coverage would likely be $16,000 by 2007-08.

Few unemployed Americans have health insurance, even through Cobra allows a persons to continue paying for a few months.

Most jobs in the large service industry have sketchy coverage.

I assume WalMart, the state's largest employer, does not have benefits for their part-time workers, nor could they afford the coverage if it was offered. The buying power of minimum wage jobs, according to the government, is at its lowest in history.

It is estimated that 60 million Americans will not have any insurance by 2006, and many others will have policies with restrictions and deductibles that will make the coverage questionable. Where I once worked it was called "junk coverage."

Personally experiencing health problems during the past year, my "good insurance" which cost my employer about $800 a month, ran up thousands of dollars of co-pays and deductibles by cost shifting. Cost shifting is where the insured pays for the uninsured.

Later, when I had no insurance coverage, the bills rapidly climbed and most certainly, there was no money to purchase high cost medications.

My case has become most people's case, or to paraphrase old sayings, "There is no crisis, until it is me without insurance."

Bankruptcies are dramatically increasing. The biggest item - unpaid medical bills.

Many companies aren't creating new jobs or giving pay raises, because of health insurance.

Since President Clinton's national health care reform failed when he first became president, beaten down by business interests and the Republican Party, it was felt that piece-meal reforms would keep it in place.

Insurance companies, in recent years, have created their own second administrative company to "control" costs - Managed Care. A second company, to do what the first company should have done to begin with, or so it seems. There is little evidence that managed care has held costs down. Managed Care has certainly doubled the cost of administration, forms, forms, forms.

Years have gone by, and even "big business" may have had their fill of the health care band-aids, while small businesses are giving up on trying to pay the premiums.

National health care or a two-tier delivery system appears unacceptable in Washington.

American business, labor and government does not have the will to stop the train.

I hear that crash a'comin, comin' round the bend...


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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