The fall elections could create a new climate for benefits brokers and health insurance company executives as well as for other participants in the U.S. health care system.
The recent passage of a bipartisan health reform package in Massachusetts shows that change is in the air.
In my opinion, proposals for creating a national universal single-payer health care system are gaining momentum.
What will you do if the single-payer movement becomes an unstoppable express? Cry about the upheaval, or climb aboard and find new ways to do well by doing good?
I’m a physician, and I helped set up and run a health maintenance organization. Of course, I wanted that HMO to do well. We tried as hard as anyone else to use our democratic rights to influence legislation to favor our products. That’s the American way.
But results from every national poll, including those sponsored by health insurance trade groups, show that the cost of health care is one of likely voters’ top concerns. In most cases, worries about health care costs rank second only to concerns about the fighting in Iraq.
In the health insurance industry, we are getting too comfortable with stories about huge annual coverage cost increases.
An insurance agent recently told a school superintendent I know to expect another “usual” 21% increase in health insurance rates for the coming year. Some employers, especially those trying to maintain solid benefits packages, are facing even steeper increases for the fourth or fifth or sixth year in a row.
Experiencing increases of that kind is not a “usual and customary” event in the minds of the customers paying for the health insurance.
If we start to think that five straight years of double-digit increases is normal, we’re in trouble.
No one knows for sure what will happen in November, but there’s a strong possibility Democrats could take control of the U.S. House. There’s even a possibility they could take control of the Senate.
If the Democrats get more clout in Washington, some almost certainly will introduce a high-profile, single-payer universal health plan.
My prediction is that Democrats will attract the most attention with proposals that get away from the kind of cautious tweaking of the current system seen in the Republican-driven Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and the Democratic House Caucus platform.
Voters have had it with piecemeal tinkering and are pushing for real change.
Here are what the universal, single-payer proposals might look like: