Teri is now officially on furlough, it began Tuesday, the day before our 17th anniversary. She was notified by her manager that while the company is continuing to offer insurance coverage for employees, since she is no longer receiving a paycheck from the company, she will receive a bill before the month from the insurance company for her premium. The burning question now is whether the bill she receives from the insurance company will be for the amount that she pays out of her paycheck every week, or the total premium amount for her coverage.
This can be a critical difference. In my last job, I was blessed with a “Cadillac” health plan, for which I paid $50 a paycheck to cover Teri and myself. The raw total for my knee replacement 9 years ago assayed out to $109,000. My total out-of-pocket expense? $371 and change. When I took a voluntary buyout from the company almost 5 years ago, one of the side bennies they offered us was to bridge our health insurance for 4 months via COBRA. My monthly insurance premium to extend the coverage? $847 a month.
This is what Bernie Sanders has been hammering away at for the past 5 years now, and even if Joe Biden is the nominee, he is going to fave increasing pressure to move harder left on the issue of Medicare-for-all. Because if there is one thing that this corona-virus pandemic has done, it is to take what was once a theoretical issue and turn it into a practical, everyday issue affecting everyone.
What was the biggest resistance to Medicare-for-all? People were adverse to the thought of losing the insurance they already had. That insurance was like a security blanket, it might have holes in it, but it was warm and comforting just to have it, and like any child, people were loathe to give it up. Whenever you actually have anything, the possibility of losing it is entirely theoretical. But now, thanks to the pandemic, millions have suddenly become unemployed. If they were flat out fired, or if the company shut down for good, they are without health insurance. And if they are on furlough like Teri, it’s an open question as to whether the monthly premiums will be something that they can afford. Viola! The theoretical has just become reality. And at a time when a full course of corona-virus treatment, including a ventilator, tops out at somewhere in the neighborhood of $74,000.
Millions of people are now uninsured, with a daunting prospect of trying to get insurance that they can afford. The Democrats should be hammering daily in the media about Trump’s refusal to reopen the Obamacare exchanges for a special period. But as the crisis drags on, even people who are lucky enough to still be employed, and covered by insurance, the specter is always over their shoulder that if this drags on too long, they too could find themselves on the street, without coverage. And since they’re just sitting around the table with paper and a calculator anyway, they might finally realize that a Medicare payroll tax of $135 a month, the going premium for Medicare, is less than they’re paying in payroll deductions for their current plan, along with co-pays and deductibles.. And nobody can take it away from them. Suddenly, Bernie’s radical socialist idea is starting to look pretty damn good in this Brave New World.
But not even counting the personal aspects of health insurance for the individuals, this virus has exposed another, quite possibly fatal flaw in the American health care model, and that is hospitals. The vast majority of hospitals in this country are for profit hospitals, and right now, they’re in the hurt locker. But how can this be, if they’re stuffed to the gills with corona-virus patients?
Simple. Where do for profit hospitals make the major portion of their income? It ain’t from the emergency room, and it ain’t from ob-gyn. It ain’t from the cardiac care unit, or the ICU unit either. It’s from elective surgeries. And right now, with the burgeoning crisis, doctors and patients all over the country are voluntarily canceling the voluntary procedures that they had scheduled, and holding off on scheduling any new ones.
Remember my knee replacement listed above? The gross charge was $108,000. Now granted, some of that went to my surgeon, and the anesthesiologist. But the hospital also charged for the rental and use of the surgical suite and equipment, the clean up, and disposable suppliers, as well as the room rate, and physical therapy. The gouging of the insurance companies for these elective procedures is where these hospitals make their money, and right now that source of income is shut off to them. And you can bet your ass that once this quiets down, those for-profit hospitals are going to come crawling to Steve
Munchkin to try to get some of their own back from that half a trillion slush fund he’s paddling around in.
It’s an old saying, You never truly appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone. And right now, millions of Americans are missing the shit out of their health insurance, and just when they need it the most. And millions more are looking over their shoulders, waiting for the hammer to fall. If I was a Democrat running in any race in the country this November, I’d be pounding away mercilessly on two issues. The truly tragic and pathetic Trump administration bungling of this crisis, which is literally costing lives every day, as well as trumpeting the Democratic healthcare plan, whichever it is, to promise and ensure the people of this country that they will never have to fear going without health insurance again. And while I’m at it, I’d remind everybody within the sound of my voice that, as we speak, the Trump administration is in the Supreme Court, trying to kill Obamacare once and for all. Trump and the GOP have no valid defense, and it’s the kind of thing that is not only at the front of everybody’s mind, but it figures to stay there, especially if the virus surges back again in the fall. Start planting those seeds now.
To know the future, look to the past.before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen