Well, it’s open enrollment season again, that festive time of year when we all realize just how much money we are throwing away on medical insurance that barely functions. Every year, I almost forget just how much damage Obamacare has done to the country, but every November the federal government makes sure to remind me.
Last year, I received exactly zero dollars’ worth of benefit from my mandatory policy. In a sense, this is a good thing; I’m healthy and don’t have to see a doctor very often. But on the other hand, it seems ridiculous that I’m forced by law to buy a policy that I’m not using. Nevertheless, in spite of this lack of utility, I was informed that my premiums for next year would increase by $70 per month. Unwilling to let this stand, I promptly went online to shop for new, less expensive policy.
The first thing that you notice when you go through this process is how few options there really are. As a resident of Washington, D.C., my health insurance providers are limited to just two or three companies, depending on how much I’m willing to pay. As a single, relatively young male with no previously existing conditions, I have it better than most, but these premiums still add up, especially given how little the policies actually cover.
This year, I was enrolled in a Silver plan, the second tier of slightly more useful health insurance options, but due to price considerations, I’m switching to a Bronze plan. Here, the term Bronze is apparently code for “effectively useless.” My deductible will be over $6,000, meaning that for all but the most drastic health care expenses, I am effectively uninsured. But that’s okay. All I really want is catastrophic coverage, so that if I get hit by a bus or need major surgery, I won’t end up in debt for the rest of my life. But there’s bad news on that front too.
In order to get an affordable policy, you’re forced to see only doctors within a specified network, meaning your options for actual health care providers are basically nonexistent. Even if you do find one of the providers who accepts your insurance, and even if you do exceed your deductible, insurance still pays only a fraction of the total expense. For example, in my new policy, the insurance will cover only half of in-patient hospital stays. That’s right: only half.
This means that the kinds of major health care expenses I want insurance for, the ones that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, are still largely the responsibility of the patient. I imagine that for most people, having a $200,000 hospital bill cut down to $100,000 will be small consolation. Bankruptcy looks the same either way.
My experience illustrates the broader point: Obamacare has ruined medical insurance in this country. For all the boasting by Democrats about the number of people “covered” by Obamacare policies, they neglect to mention how difficult it is to actually use this insurance and how meager the benefit actually is compared to the premiums we are forced to pay. Add to this the cronyism that has reduced competition in the insurance market to almost nothing, and the fact that customers are legally prohibited from opting out, and it’s clear that the health care situation is completely untenable. Premiums will continue to rise and options will continue to shrink until we reach a breaking point.
This is why it’s so frustrating that Congress has proven utterly inept and dishonest in efforts (or lack of effort) to get rid of this damaging law. The overriding belief appears to be that we can ignore the problem and hope it goes away, but it won’t go away. It will get worse and worse, until the whole system ultimately collapses in on itself. At that point, we are almost certain to get a single-payer system, in which the government assumes complete control over the health care system. The only way to prevent this is to start working now towards free market reforms that, if they are unable to actually repeal Obamacare, at least allow patients more options to circumvent it.
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