Monday, November 2, 2009

Health care reform sounds good to me

I am a big fan of health care reform. Not the "public option" part of the plan, because I've seen firsthand how incompetently the government handled the whole Cash for Clunkers program -- $24,000 per car that little scheme cost the U.S. taxpayers, not to mention a website for dealers that was apparently designed by a chimpanzee, ridiculous mountains of paperwork and a foot-dragging delay in getting the dealers paid back -- and don't get me started on the ridiculousness of Social Security or even the whole H1N1 vaccine distribution thing. All these things alert me to the wisdom of not letting our federal government take over our health care system.

But there's no question that the system needs radical improvement, and as it turns out, I have a for instance for you.

My husband and I pay over $500 a month for health insurance through his employer. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH. And that's for our insurance, just the two of us. We had to find alternate health insurance for the girls because having the four of us on the employees' group plan? It was running about $900 a month. And as it turns out, we just don't make that kind of money these days, with $900 skimmed right off the top like a mere bagatelle.

So. Five hundred dollars a month.

Which brings me to the fact that I recently went to visit my doctor, who wanted me to take a series of four classes from a diabetes educator. The first class is a personal one-hour meeting with the educator and the other three are group events held in a big conference room at the hospital my doctor is affiliated with. The doctor's office contacted the diabetes educator and gave her office my insurance information; all I had to do was wait until the educator's office contacted me to set up the appointments.

The call came about five days ago. "Mrs. McKinney? This is Cathy from Karen Whosit's office, calling to schedule your classes for diabetes education."

"Oh!" I said. "Thank you for calling. Let me grab my appointment calendar."

We talked for a moment about days and times - as it turned out, the only hard-and-fast date I had to schedule was the one-on-one with Karen. The other group meetings had several scheduled dates and I could just call up to say when I was coming. Nice! That was easy!

But then Cathy dropped the bomb. "Mrs. McKinney, we've talked to your insurance company and they say they won't pay for the classes until you've met your deductible. Do you know how much you've paid on it?"

Well, since our fiscal year just started at the beginning of October with my husband's employer's group insurance plan, I'd estimate that we've paid, oh, I don't know, maybe a BIG FAT NOTHING on that deductible.

I drew a breath. "How much are the classes, just out of pocket?"

"Eight hundred dollars," replied Cathy. "Your insurance company said that they'd pay eighty percent of the total once you've met the deductible."

That conversation, as you might guess, ended badly. Oh, don't get me wrong, there was an excess of cordiality because it certainly isn't Cathy's fault that our health insurance provider -- which is a HUGE one in the state of Indiana -- is like a dollar-sucking vampire hovering over my husband's paychecks with greedy red eyes and glistening fangs. And it's not my husband's employers' fault, either: We're just thankful that they offer health insurance with a group plan because if they didn't, we'd be completely up THAT FAMOUS CREEK with my pre-existing condition, sans paddles.

But it is the health insurance company's fault. Oh, yes, it surely is. And you know what frosts my doughnuts even more? About once a week, they send me mailers urging me to learn all I can about Type II diabetes and take care of my health and test my blood glucose levels often and exercise and not eat frosted doughnuts. Yeah, they do all that and yet when I have the chance to attend some classes to add to my knowledge about this disease, it is a big no-go, in spite of the fact we pay the aforementioned FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH to them for two people, one of whom goes to the doctor and gets two A1C tests per year and maybe three or four other times for the odd sinus infection or whatever, and the other of whom never goes at all.

So! Health insurance reform! I'm a big, big fan of that. When's it coming?

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