US readers will probably be completely au fait with this, but UK folks like myself might be interested in hearing about some of the measures which have gotten people so hot under the collar of late. The full healthcare reform act comes into effect in 2014, but there are some interim bits taking effect now. These are:
- Eliminating lifetime limits on how much insurers will pay to cover claims in a policy.
- No more dropping of individuals, or “recision,” when an expensive illness results in big claims.
- No co-pays or other cost-sharing for preventive care, such as immunization or mammograms.
- Right to include children up to age 26 on family policies, whether they are dependent or not.
- No more refusal of policies to children with pre-existing conditions.
You can read more from the Whitehouse on these measures here.
How have the insurance companies responded to these new measures? Well some of the biggest companies have decided that they’re not going to issue any more child-only policies, because they can no longer turn away children with ‘pre-existing conditions’ – i.e., sick children. Apparently, Republican MIck Huckabee had the following to say:
It sounds so good, and it’s such a warm message to say we’re not gonna deny anyone from a pre-existing condition. Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, ‘I’d like to buy some insurance for my house.’ He’d say, ‘Tell me about your house.’ ‘Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I’d like to insure it today.’ And he’ll say ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t insure it after it’s already burned.’ Well, no pre-existing conditions.
In a sense, one can’t entirely blame the insurers – the point of their existence is to make money. They don’t pay for healthcare out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it’s a profitable business. As businesses, they have to protect their interests, which means taking measures to ensure their profit isn’t reduced. But what this means is that there’s something deeply wrong with a system that provides healthcare as a way of making money. The whole rotten thing needs to come down. And for us over here, on the other side of the pond, we need to protect the NHS, because we don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. There’s more on the insurers, Huckabee, etc. here.