Cure-All or Cure-None?

Health insurance businessHave you ever done or said something that, even before you do or say it, you know you shouldn’t? But then you do it anyway. Well, that is me today. I am not wading in; I am diving in and I already know I will be sorry but, geez, I just can’t help myself. Here goes:

The topic is the new Affordable Care Law. Now before I go further let me say this. Those who know me personally know my politics defy description.  I vote for Republicans and Democrats alike and I am a registered Independent. I would be considered “liberal” on certain issues, “conservative” on others.  My political views are irrelevant to this discussion really but I wanted to get that out on the table because I know how these types of discussions go. I am not writing from a political point of view; I am writing from that of a small business owner.

I have always believed that good employers care about their employees and show it. So when I started this business nearly 20 years ago, it was a great source of pride to add health insurance benefits within the first year. Our health insurance is 100-percent employer paid because it was important to me that our employees have it and it is also the norm in the very competitive Washington, D.C., job market.

And like you I am sure, I hate to read stories in the paper or hear of friends who are sick and have no insurance as they must make life decisions based on whether or not they have insurance. You have been unlucky enough in life’s health sweepstakes if you get sick; it seems a double hit that it can destroy your financial health as well.

So I always thought that there was an amorphous group of uninsured people out there who needed and got services that they could not pay for. The cost of this care was in effect re-appropriated through higher medical and/or insurance costs to those of us who could afford it and/or those who had insurance. This system, along with lifetime limits and pre-existing condition exclusions, was far from perfect but I took solace in the fact that it was providing medical attention to those in need.

So I had some hope for the Affordable Care Act, now law. Then a number of things happened that I hadn’t anticipated. First, the provisions of the bill that mandate that insurance policies cover those with pre-existing conditions and end lifetime limits basically meant that almost every insurance plan out there was going away. I venture to say almost everyone reading this will get a letter from their insurer saying that their former plan is no longer offered. So the actuarial tables have been turned on their ears. Oh, you smart insurers you, you guys just sat there like Cheshire cats throughout this whole thing knowing just about every plan you offered would go away. Second, I realized that my initial assumption that medical costs would go down was a fantasy.

Still I kept an open mind because I thought it would be a better way to make sure people had access to insurance.

Then we got our renewal (our insurance runs May 1-April 30). Now if you think I am going to complain because the cost has gone up and pull a “then-it-happened-to-me” you are wrong. It’s true, our insurance is going up significantly, on average 24 percent. Typical was this increase for one of our employees in his early 30s: from $181.13 a month to $385.32 a month—a 113-percent increase, and he is a healthy guy.

I have had a few people check the website and sure enough, their rates through that site would be less than what we are paying. In fairness, in some cases they are higher. But, as a small business owner, it sure made me wonder if we’d be better off ending our policy and paying the up-charge for the government program.

In the end, I decided against that. But that decision was based mostly on a belief that good employers provide insurance for their employees and not on the numbers. But geez, it sure seems to me that the medical community is going to come out okay. Their prices remain artificially high to cover a group of “uninsurables” who will soon be insured. The insurance industry?  Well, they should be dancing as they have been able to adjust their rates to eliminate their risk and they are getting a whole new flood of customers besides.  And the business owner?  Well, for now, I feel like the ones trying to do the right thing are taking the hit.

Am I off on this? What do you think?