We Have To Destroy This Village To Save It

Monday, October 4, 2010
Insurance is real. My job is to work with real people, everyday, to solve real problems. I get angry and frustrated when the theoretical and the hypothetical invade my space and get in my way. Yes, I have an agenda. All but the apathetic have an agenda. The undeclared and disorganized agenda of the national Democrats interfered with my work this week. And I am more than just a little upset.

Jimmy (yes, the name is changed) is a healthy eleven year old living in Greater Cleveland. I have no idea where his dad lives. Jimmy lives with his mother, Wendy, a woman who has not worked since her unfortunate skiing accident of a few years ago. Jimmy’s major bills, like school, are paid by a generous aunt. Jimmy is uninsured.

Wendy had insurance for her son and herself, but she let it lapse in August. She didn’t pay the insurance and she didn’t tell her sister until last Monday. Why are the dates important? Because now we have a problem.

Wendy’s sister would have kept the old policy active, had she been notified in a timely manner. Though Wendy has recovered, for the most part, from her serious injuries, she is difficult to insure at this time. Due to the new health bill, we can not write a Child, Only policy on Jimmy. We could two weeks ago. A comprehensive policy on a healthy eleven year old used to be around $100 a month. That policy no longer exists.

Proponents of the new health care legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, love to cite the new provisions for covering children. No underwriting. No limits on preexisting conditions. Totally free preventive care. How do you price that policy? How do you properly build reserves for the sudden, and massive, shift of risk as parents currently paying for underwritten policies move to blindly issued contracts? You can’t. The insurance companies eliminated all Child, Only policies.

How many unhealthy kids are there? How many of my clients, small businesses in Northeast Ohio, are paying higher premiums because the owner’s child has a heart condition or a genetic disorder or some other ailment that requires substantial care? LOTS. And if the insurers didn’t play self-defense, if the companies unthinkingly threw open the doors and took all of them at a standard rates, the results would be devastating.

So where does that leave Jimmy, our healthy eleven year old? I can write, for the moment, short term, catastrophic coverage on Wendy and Jimmy. G-d forbid insurance. It is the best I can do. Governor Strickland, realizing the mess Washington has created, signed an emergency order this week to force the insurance companies to have a special “open enrollment” for Child, Only policies. Medical Mutual of Ohio, Anthem Blue Cross, and UnitedHealth Care have yet to determine how to comply with this order or how to price the product.

We had a health care system. It was uniquely American and it served 80% to 85% of us. It was hardly perfect, but it was ours and, like it or not, it reflected our values and our tastes. We needed to improve the system we had to better serve all Americans. Instead, we are in the process of dismantling our method of paying for health care and interacting with our medical providers.

Jimmy is just, to use the proper term, collateral damage.

DAVE

www.bogartcunix.com