Thank God for Health Insurance Reform

One of the things sadly and remarkably absent from this year's long debate over the push to reform our nation's health care system are the personal stories that help people understand just how important this change is, and the kind of difference it can make to people's lives. So here is a brief perspective on why I am so thankful for tonight's history making legislation.

Most of my life health insurance is something I took for granted. Both of my parents had full time jobs and for my entire childhood, all the way through college I was on one of their plans. Of course, the fact that I had health insurance in the first place never really entered my consciousness, because thankfully I was a pretty healthy kid. The most I saw of our health care system was a yearly visit to the doctor's for a physical and check up.

After I graduated and got a full time job, I continued my march right through my twenties with the same kind of blissful ignorance and lack of appreciation for health insurance. For me, health insurance had always been a given and not something I ever really needed. It was true when I was a kid, and true when I was a healthy 20-something.

In fact, the first time I gave health insurance any thought whatsoever was after I married Arin, when switching to a PPO just seemed like a good idea so that we could both continue to see the doctors we had been seeing, but now under the same plan. But again, all I had to do was check a box on a form, pay a whopping $30 extra per month out of paycheck and presto: health insurance. Truly a beautiful thing.

Fast forward to 2008.

In November of 2008 two things happened. The first was Arin learning that she was pregnant with our second child. Then two weeks later me getting laid off after working at a company I dearly loved for four years.

On the plus side, thanks to COBRA I had the peace of mind knowing that I had a good health insurance plan to cover my wife during her pregnancy and our child's birth. The downside being that our monthly COBRA bill was close to $1500.

If that doesn't sound like a lot of money to you, consider this: $1500 per month was close to 25% of my annual take home pay after taxes, while I was employed.1

My friends were quick to inform me that I was paying too much, that I could get a much better rate if I shopped around. They were of course absolutely correct, however, they did not take into consideration one small snag: my wife was pregnant, and that pregnancy, get this, is considered by insurance companies to be a "pre-existing condition" thank-you-very-much. Meaning, that while I was free to drop our COBRA coverage and switch to a less expensive health insurance option, whichever provider I chose, even if I chose the exact same one, would not cover the costs of Arin's pregnancy and delivery. I was quite simply: screwed.

Unbelievable. Pregnancy. A pre-existing condition. Pregnancy! We are not talking about an illness here. We are not even talking about a chronic condition. We are in fact talking about something that is so natural, and so beautiful that many might argue it is why we were put on this Earth in the first place.

Yet, there you go. Forget the fact that Arin is healthy. Forget the fact that Arin's pregnancy showed no risk signs whatsoever. Forget the fact that Arin's first pregnancy went without a hitch, didn't require costly drugs or pain-killers, and was over and done with in just under three and half hours. No let's ignore the facts and blindly discriminate against a family in their time of need2.

Now, fast forward a year and a half, to the present day. Our nation is poised to pass legislation that will forbid such abusive practices by insurance companies. And while I wish such practices had already been illegal when I was laid off, I rest peacefully knowing that my son and daughter will not live in a country where insurance companies could so openly and cavalierly discriminate against them in a time of need.

1 If you do the math it doesn't take a rocket scientist to learn that I got paid pretty well. So consider for a moment the kind of percentage $1500 per month might equate to for the average middle class American. The thought is simply staggering.

2 Thank goodness our family was not dealing with something more serious and more life threatening. And God, consider those families who are and all of a sidden find themselves without an insurance provider they can switch to.

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4 Comments

Byrne, this is the EXACT same story as our next door neighbor. The naysayers on this legislation are just concerned about their LOSING what they have, rather than the overall good for all it will provide. They also don't recognize the basic fact that we are all paying for the uninsured, anyway, but through the most expensive method possible: emergency medical care. I worked at a hospital when only ONE OUT OF SEVEN patients paid their bill. This led to COST-SHIFTING. I am proud that our country is finally becoming a little more civilized.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank mcp the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

I do not think the reforms really go far enough. In a country like America health care provision should be a right not a previlige. Looking at your figures, it is just mad. $1,500 a month is a fortune and many people can not afford it. Think what you could do with that money and they are not even prepared to provide a midwife to deliver a baby? It is madness. How come Cuba provides free healthcare to all their citizens and America can not provide a simplest of services at a price of $18,000 a year?

Health insurance is really an important entity which every citizen of the country should have. They should be affordable, where in every insured should have a balance on his expenditures, family and other insurances.

Onto your case, $1500 is a huge cost, where Cuba comes into rescue if you have an option to switch to other insurance providers. I dint had any such option when the same case was going with my mother, who was ill and needed a treatment urgently. :(

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  • I do not think the reforms really go far enough. In a country like America health care provision should be a right not a previlige. Looking at your figures, it is just mad. $1,500 a month is a fortune and many people can...

  • I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I wan...

  • Byrne, this is the EXACT same story as our next door neighbor. The naysayers on this legislation are just concerned about their LOSING what they have, rather than the overall good for all it will provide. They also don't...

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