Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday's News - Understanding Reform

I went through all the papers this morning as I always do for you -- the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, Politico, Huffington Post -- nothing really grabbed me today, and it was beginning to look like I might not have anything to share with you this morning.

Until I looked at the Hartford Courant. Strangely, it's the only paper I read this morning that reported on a new report from the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee that says that the four biggest insurers in the United States denied coverage to 651,000 people due to pre-existing conditions over three years. Those were people who applied for insurance and were turned down by Aetna, Humana, Wellpoint (Anthem), and UnitedHealthcare.

I later found an article on the same report in the Wall St. Journal. The way they put it is that these four insurers denied coverage to 1 in every 7 applicants.

And this, more than anything else, is why health reform ended up winning the day. We simply cannot have a large class of uninsurable people who are sick and in need of health care. Those are the bankruptcies. Those are the diseases that get so out of control that they end up in emergency rooms that can't turn them away like the insurers did.

The insurance lobby would have killed any attempt to force them to enroll people with pre-existing conditions without also being assured that they would get a bunch of healthy new enrollees to balance things out. And so we got the individual mandate that everybody buy insurance. But we couldn't force people to buy insurance if they couldn't afford it, so that's how we got subsidies. There are lots and lots of other details to the law, but this is its core.

And why is this number -- 651,000 -- not worthy of mention in the national press? After all, it's not just a number; it's people whose lives have been deeply affected by this.

I'm not surprised, but the number, to me, is jarring. A whole lot of people who wanted insurance, could afford insurance, but couldn't get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. And those pre-existing conditions include things as benign as high blood pressure even if controlled by medicine, or as astounding as a history of domestic violence.

Had the insurance industry really wanted to avoid reform, these are the people they had to find a way to cover. They didn't. We had to do something. 651,000 people said so. Jennifer

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