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Chan Lowe: Health insurance shock


One of the great bamboozlements of the last couple of years has been the success of special interests in convincing ordinary Americans that health care reform was an attempt by Big Government to purloin their personal freedoms.

The strategy can be encapsulated in the simplistic, bumper-sticker slogan, “Do you want a government bureaucrat making medical decisions instead of your doctor?”

Not only is this an inaccurate scare tactic, it conveniently ignores the reality that private insurance company bean counters are already making life-and-death decisions that should be made only between you and your doctor, and have been doing so for decades.

The fear strategy was so successful that candidates who voted to pass the legislation⎯rather than taking credit for their vote⎯have been shying away from it in the 2010 election campaign.

And maybe they should. Once the public option was dropped in order to get the bill through Congress, the future law was rendered toothless in terms of its ability to contain private rates through competition.

Sure, there are a few things we can be happy about (elimination of the pre-existing conditions restriction, for example), but those yearning for true reform might also want to use the pejorative “Obamacare,” in this case, to describe what might have been but wasn’t⎯by a long shot.

Think I’m wrong on this public option thing? Americans with employer-provided health plans are currently in the middle of their open enrollment periods for next year’s coverage, and what they’re seeing ain’t pretty.

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Or maybe the proper approach is attacking the cost of delivering service instead of who pays the bill. Ever since the managed care kludge was bolted on to a system that remains fee for service otherwise, it's been a disaster.

What should be done is scraping the entire system. You didn't get HMOs from insurance companies, the move that made individual policies vanish by tinkering with Federal Tax code to move it to being supplied by employers wasn't by the hospitals.

Are we going to be lowering the cost of producing direct care providers? If an insurance company has set it's rates and is enjoying a whopping 5% margin, what happens when you take people with pre-existing conditions who have never paid a single dime of premiums while healthy suddenly require hundreds of thousands of dollars in care?

What happened when we turned the most important question you needed to ask your Doctor became if he was a member of your managed network?

Are people going to emergency rooms because they don't have insurance or is it because the administration needed for filing claims on every procedure are built in to private practice costs?

If I could flip back the clock and tell you the ability to pay for routine care out of pocket with chronic and expensive care taken care of by a national pool would you care about a public option?

There is no reason for medical insurance to be different from auto or property insurance where claims are paid to any licensed provider. Thinking shifting the burden driving individuals and families bankrupt to government is poor logic. Thinking you can force providers to deliver service at less than cost is a dubious strategy.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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