This week’s headlines were dominated by the vote on the new Republican backed health care bill. This bill seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new State-centric set of laws. I happened to be lucky enough to see the vote actually take place over a livestream, and it fell pretty much along party lines. That much wasn’t surprising.
What is surprising is how much gloating the House has done over it’s ability to pass a law that will never see the light of day. Most of the provisions in the bill are far too unpalatable for the Senate, and if anything escapes the upper chamber, it won’t resemble what was passed this week. In essence this was a move by a bunch of Republicans to look like they did something they promised they would do, but in the end it will have little real effect.
However, what I really want to spend a moment on is a provision that has been getting a lot of press. That is the notion of covering pre-existing conditions. One of the BIG wins of the ACA was that insurance companies could not charge you more for pre-existing conditions. The press has been outraged about this, with flamboyant statements about rape limiting your access to healthcare. I want to back down just a moment though and look at this from a less incendiary position.
As many people know, I’ve run multiple marathons, I’ve run a 50K, a 50 miler race, and I bike and run regularly. Granted I drink a bit too much beer to look like an action hero, but in general I’ve been living a mostly healthy lifestyle. I should have no issue getting private insurance right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
You see, I have two conditions that would put me in a category for higher scrutiny, asthma and anxiety. I’ve had asthma my whole life, and yet in my adult years I’ve been able to overcome it and do incredible things, like run marathons. Yet, it’s a documented condition, and therefore I have to disclose it. Additionally, I also have documented anxiety, and have been treated in the past for that with medications. Despite this, I’m able to live a productive and mostly healthy lifestyle. Yet, it would bar me from health insurance plans.
The problem is that we view health insurance and health care as the same thing, when they are very different things. Insurance is a financial product that exists to protect us when things aren’t going according to plan. We have car insurance and life insurance, and most people understand that these are only for emergencies. We don’t think about asking our car insurance to pay for an oil change. Yet, that’s exactly what we do with our health insurance. Health insurance is still managed like regular insurance, which means things like pre-existing conditions drive up rates. Just like an unsafe driver gets higher car insurance rates, people with pre-existing conditions cause the entire rate pool to increase. It’s simply how the concept of insurance works.
This is why I have been, and will always be, an advocate for universal health care. We need to stop treating our health care the same way we treat our car or our house. We need to be thinking about more ways to improve the health of society overall, that doesn’t require meeting the burden of profit that insurance does. Yes, this week was a depressing week in news, regarding our health coverage, but what is even more depressing is that we’re still talking about health insurance instead of health care. As long as we’re locked into this model of insurance based coverage, we’re never going to be able to truly take care of society, and provide needed health care for the most vulnerable who need it.