Chamber Made Column
Oct. 14, 2017
All This Health Insurance Talk Is Making Me Sick
Chances are there are a few things you do not know about me, despite my many years of writing this column. I bet you didn’t know I played the French horn in high school, that I almost always write with a fountain pen and that I have more than 20 years of experience in dealing with the health insurance industry.
For most of my tenure at the chamber, I have served as either a board member or president of an organization called Chamber Benefits, Inc., or what we call CBI. It is a for-profit subsidiary of the state chamber-wide organization and allowed us to offer health insurance plans to chambers, as we did in the past, and now dental and vision programs. I have seen quite a bit in my two-plus decades on CBI, and I would like to offer some observations on the healthcare industry.
There is a reason many of us are scared stiff when it comes to health insurance. It doesn’t make one bit of difference what president’s name is in front of a plan. There are so many confusing moving parts when you are talking about health care: premiums, co-pays, deductibles and on down the line. Is it any wonder that eyes glass over, in all corners of this country, when the topic of health insurance pops up?
This week, a number of important developments regarding health care were made in Washington, and we still unsure how these changes will affect us as Americans. Will these presidential orders hurt the poor, as some claim, with subsidies being cut by the federal government to insurance companies? Will they force double-digit premium increases to those who do not receive assistance, as these folks may have to bear the brunt of funding these subsidies? Will those with pre-existing conditions have to re-mortgage their homes to pay premiums, if those conditions are figured into healthcare costs? And, last but not least, how many people will lose health coverage as a result of these recent decisions, most being driven by executive orders?
The fact that we do not know the answers to these questions, just weeks before open enrollment begins, is alarming. I am not trying to be political here, but I have never liked executive orders, and it has nothing to do with party affiliation. Such orders take the American people out of the decision-making process on critical issues, and if there was ever a time we needed every voice around the table, this is that time.
I am not so naïve to think that health insurance is not broken to a great extent. We pay far too much in premiums for way too little in coverage, and the cost of prescriptions, compared to the rest of the world, is ridiculous. What I have not subscribed to, however, is the notion that you not only throw the baby out with the bath water but the whole damn family. Now is the time for Congress to work together, be adults and solve this problem once and for all. Pardon the pun, but this is not brain surgery.
I have been very disheartened by the growing level of rancor in Washington in the past 20 years, but I would like nothing more than Congress, as a whole, to surprise us and work for the common good going forward. It would be a healthy start to curing an ill that has bothered us for decades.
(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce.)