Haven’t Heard The Last Of Health Insurance

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Expect insurance companies offering policies on the New York exchange to increase premiums in 2016.
Expect insurance companies offering policies on the New York exchange to increase premiums in 2016.

Millions of New Yorkers don’t need more financial pressure in their lives, don’t need another reason to avoid looking through the pile of mail lying beneath the slot. For many, the biggest increase in their family budgets next year will be the cost of health insurance.
Yeah, we never really fixed that.
The federal health reforms passed in 2010 (“Obamacare”) helped millions get insurance coverage. It especially was a boon to people unfairly left out or priced out of the system because of circumstances beyond their control, like being sick or injured. Centers for Disease Control surveys show the least number of people in 15 years reporting that they didn’t get medical treatment because of the cost, though at least 9.2 percent of Americans are still uninsured.

New York’s regulations created a very centralized system that removed almost any incentive for shopping for insurance off its NY State of Health insurance exchange, which has enrolled more than 2.1 million residents into comprehensive health plans (including 110,000 people in Nassau County and 146,000 in Suffolk). Eighty-nine percent of all exchange enrollees were uninsured when they applied for coverage.

Twelve of the 17 companies offering policies on the New York exchange will be getting premium increases in 2016. Overall, rates will increase an average of 7.1 percent, but the state’s showcase insurance “co-op” will get an increase of 14 percent and a two-year increase of 30.1 percent. As insurers feel their way around the new system and the many new customers, the costs of premiums, copayments and deductibles have been moving all over the place.
Surveys show that people who got their insurance policies from the exchanges like it, but think it’s too expensive, doesn’t cover everything and the copays are too high.

Just like everyone else with health insurance in the United States.
And it’s too complicated, even for people who try to do due diligence. Some of Long Island’s largest hospitals are out-of-network even for the state’s largest health insurers. Except for emergency room care, out-of-network providers can charge you anything they want (some expensive policies limit those costs). A reader with a “Cadillac” group insurance plan describes being referred recently to a specific surgeon at a local hospital that heavily advertises its work in that specialty.

An hour on the table cost more than a new automobile.
We took a few steps in the right direction, creating a somewhat-improved version of what we had, but we didn’t take the big leap. We didn’t break up the health care racket.

The reforms attempt to lower costs by increasing choice, but in reality an ill or injured person has no real choice. You can’t shop around for many conditions, especially if bleeding is involved.
Some 20 state governments are run by people who see increasing access of average Americans to health care as a historic national catastrophe. Because Obama. That’s all, just Obama. The real danger is that politicians wipe their hands as if health care is “done,” while one in five Americans don’t fill a prescription because of its cost.

New mergers involving four of the five largest national health insurance companies (Anthem and Cigna, Aetna and Humana), will likely drive up health insurance premiums and discourage innovation, according to the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association. Mergers among generic drug manufacturers have led to a 373 percent price increase per prescription in the 50 most popular generics between 2010 and 2014.

We’re heading in the wrong direction.
Vermont gave up on its attempt to create a saner, cheaper single-payer system because they couldn’t figure out how to fold together a state program with the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The way to do it is to fold together everything into one program, but 20 out of 21 presidential candidates don’t seem to think so.

Michael Miller (mmillercolumn@gmail.com) has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.

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