GOP Healthcare ACCESS Claims are a Scam – This is why
You cannot turn on the tv today without hearing a Republican tout ‘Healthcare Access’. Everyone will have ‘access’. ‘Access’ is the cure-all for our healthcare system and will allow us the FREEDOM to make our own choices. The GOP American Health Care Act (AHCA) is a scam and healthcare ACCESS is central to this scam.
Before answering the central question ‘what do they mean by access’, let’s look at what access meant in the past from personal experience. Unlike 90% of the other people who are writing and legislating about this topic, I actually have first-hand experience with our dysfunctional health insurance industry.
In 2010, I moved from the United Kingdom where I had been working for the past five years, back to the United States to start my own company. While in the UK, I had been enrolled in the NHS. I was given a NHS card and a tax was taken out of my paycheck. This allowed me access to go to any doctor or hospital and not have to worry about any financial transactions. In fact there are no ‘Financial Departments’ or cashiers at either of these places. The only out of pocket you are expected to pay is for prescriptions, which at the time were a standard £12 per script. During my time there, I had nothing more serious than a sinus infection, but for me, the system worked just fine. Now if I would have wanted to get additional health insurance for non-DHS hospitals or doctors, this was offered as a normal benefit at work, so the option was there. No health related bankruptcies there also. Then I moved back to the United States.
One of the first things that I did upon my return was to try to purchase health insurance. I was shocked, horrified and disgusted. I contacted all of the major health insurers (Humana, Blue Cross, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, etc.) looking for a reasonable policy. It is important to remember this was pre-ACA. All of the health insurance providers considered the fact that I had had tonsillitis 3 times in my life a pre-existing condition. The cost to me for awful insurance ($5000 deductible, high co-pays, limited doctor choices, no dental or eye, almost no preventative care and no prescription coverage) ranged from $900 to $1300 per month. There were no less expensive options of catastrophic policies available. In other words, I was uninsured – but I had ACCESS – I was free! I was free to throw every penny I earned into a garbage health insurance policy.
The ACA was a godsend. After a very high stress couple of years, when the ACA was rolled out, I was finally able to get affordable healthcare. I paid (and still pay) around $350 per month for decent coverage, reasonable co-pays and deductibles. In short, I pay a fair price for a decent product. This is why the insurance companies HATE the ACA. Gone are the horrible and expensive policies that give you spotty coverage at a huge price. Gone are the loopholes that get them out of paying for your healthcare when you need it the most. This was one of the very best components of the ACA – it imposed minimum standards on healthcare policies sold through the exchange. This is why insurance companies are pulling out of the exchange. It is not because they are not making money on the exchange (selling a fair product). It is because they are not making ENOUGH money on the exchange. It makes their overall profit margins go down. UnitedHealthCare made $2 billion dollars in profit in 2016, so the insurance companies are not hurting or even struggling.
As a bit of perspective, the United Kingdom’s NHS is a socialized healthcare system. Centrally owned and managed by the state. Some people are ok with that. Others loath that and think that Governments are too incompetent by nature and for-profit corporations are the only ones that should be making the life and death decisions about our healthcare choices. Personally that latter terrifies me. My healthcare depends on the financial performance of a corporation last quarter? Really? However there are for-profit healthcare insurers that exist in some European countries, such as in Scandinavian countries. The difference between their insurance companies and American healthcare insurance companies are regulations. Their insurance markets are highly regulated. Regulations are bad, right? For who? Regulations aimed at protecting your rights and the amount companies can charge you are good, very good. In their insurance markets, insurance companies are told ‘your profits will be 10% each year, you must provide these services and you must charge no more than XX for them. If not, get into a different kind of business. We have many companies willing to do this function for an almost guaranteed 10%.’ So this is a non-socialized, free-market approach to insurance. The Republican’s ‘socialized medicine’ fear argument is a pathetic red herring – don’t be fooled.
In conclusion, when Republicans use the word ACCESS, they are actually saying that you will have the FREEDOM to purchase the garbage policies the insurance industry has spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for over the past decade.
UPDATE: The argument has gotten even dumber. Republican spokespeople are trying to sell the line today that “Even if someone can’t afford the health insurance, that doesn’t matter. Having the FREEDOM to choose a plan, having that access is what is important”. WTF – If you cannot afford it, you don’t have access to it.