What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Open Letter to My Senators Regarding Health Care

One of the other pieces of news we got this weekend (besides the Viable Paradise acceptance) was the good news that my insurance paid a bill. The insurance plan I no longer have. We switched in February. But it's okay, because the bill was one that was resubmitted December 30th of last year. Original Bill was the end of October. Six months later and they pay the bill. Yeah, the private insurance industry is so wonderful.

So now that the health care bill is in the Senate, it was time to break out the word processors.

Dear Senators Brown and Voinovich,

I'm writing to you today to encourage you to support a revamping of our health care industry. That revamping could include a variety of techniques, most of which would be considered far more onerous than a "Public Option" health insurance program. Such legislative options include restricting health insurance providers to be non-profit organizations and operate under the "mutual" concept many used to. For this reason, the re-engineering of the industry that would be brought about by the "Public Option" is the easier path to trod. In either case, something must be done, and soon. Preferably this year.

(* This paragraph was only included to Senator Voinovich *) I know you prefer to leave these decisions up to the states, but in my opinion that's just a way to duck the issue and vote for the status quo. Our current system is regulated by the individual states. Depending on which state your in the mandatory coverage, which primarily is the template for the coverage certificates, can vary widely and creates a patchwork system of regulation which other industries (automotive manufacturing, energy production, firearm manufactures) have all decried as inefficient and a barrier to business. In the past year we have also seen ideas floated to allow the purchasing of health care from different states. If such an idea is enacted, the health care companies will make a run to the least restrictive state and provide their coverage from there. I submit as an example the credit card industry which moves their nominal headquarters to the state which they feel gives them the most latitude for their business. Leaving the regulation to the states is an invitation to a worse situation than what we have now. I urge you to reconsider this position.

While the cost of energy maybe dragging the economy, the cost of health care has our economy by the throat. The cost of health insurance, despite what the US Chamber of Commerce likes to say, it the real engine of non-competativeness for American businesses. Before the current economic downturn the major stumbling block in union contract negotiations wasn't hourly pay or respect in the workplace, it was the cost of health care (UAW, various teachers unions and city workers, and my own GCCU Local 546M contract negotiations). A quick google search will demonstrate the wide spread nature of the issue.

My own personal story includes such a problem. With the downturn in the economy my employer was forced to have layoffs this past April. I have several coworkers who are close enough to retirement to have volunteered. My employer wasn't able to offer a buy-out option to cover their health benefits. The two people who would have needed to volunteer for me to keep my position told me personally that if it weren't for the cost of health care until they qualified for medicare, they would have volunteered. I'm told the same was true in several other departments.

The cost of health care is a major contributing factor to individual bankruptcies, driving over 60% of those filed, 75% of whom did have health insurance according to a study by Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University.

The cost of health care has been one of the contributing factors to the stagnation of wages in the past decade. My previous employer used the cost of insurance in my "total compensation" package. While the total compensation increased by a significant percentage every year, my actual pay increased below the cost of living. On top of that we continued to rewrite the insurance program increasing copays and deductibles every year.

The cost of health care is also prohibitive to small businesses, the growth engine of our economy. They are unable to compete for the best workers because they are unable to negotiate fair rates because of their small employment number, so they would pay higher premiums per employee. For that reason, many are unable to offer that benefit.

Our companies are straining under the cost burdon of providing health care. It's stifling investment in new technologies and production improvements by draining capitol. It is ruining our economy with "stealth" costs, such as payments to cover the uninsured from the government and forcing providers to adjust their charges to cover their losses from the uninsured which lead to higher premiums for the insured.

The status quo, or a "continuous improvement" process isn't acceptable and isn't what's needed. We need to re-engineer health care for our business and our jobs, but mostly for the people and our economy.

This is why I support including a public option being included in the health care reorganization laws currently being discussed.

Critics of a public option talk about rationing, bureaucrats standing between the patients and doctors and making medical decisions, and limiting choice of doctors. We've had fifteen years of experimentation of allowing the "free market" to solve the problem of increasing costs and we already having rationing of service by limiting covered medical costs. We already have bureaucrats standing between patients and their doctors in the form of insurance customer service representatives who deny benefits and procedures. And with adding prohibitive costs the insurance companies are controlling choice of doctors with a two tiered cost structures for in-network and out of network providers which in effect limits the choice of the insured to in-network providers.

The public option would force private insurance providers to reduce their own internal costs and bring them inline with with their foreign counterparts. It'll adjust the market to where the insurance companies are responsive to their customers and the doctors they pay. Instead of being forced to fulfill their contracts they will see the need to provide the service they're nominally in business to provide. The private insurance industry has had fifteen years to show they could make the system work. They've failed to contain costs and provide better service as they promised to do back in 1994. A public option would actually make the market work better.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Be kind to your small feathered friends.

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