Expanding health care coverage to more Americans is a debate that goes on and on both nationally and at the state level.
And, it continues with good reason. The latest statistics on the uninsured place the number of those who hold their breath and hope that they don’t become seriously ill at approximately 45 million.
It is a debate that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has taken on over the years. In fact, at the June meeting in Washington, a public hearing was held to gather viewpoints of commissioners, regulators, health insurance trade groups and consumer advocates.
But it was at the fall meeting in St. Louis earlier this month that living proof of why the conversation is a critical one became clear.
This occurred blocks away from the technical policy discussions that are so endemic to regular NAIC dialogue. At a table of dining NAIC attendees, a middle-aged waitress spelled it out in simple terms.
It started with some friendly joking about how I should be interviewing someone. Those gathered at the table then started asking our waitress about what she thought about insurance.
Her response surprised us, both for its bluntness and decisiveness. “It [stinks.]” Her opinion must have been pretty heartfelt to risk offending her table and cutting into her tip.
“Why?” we wanted to know. She had our attention now. She narrowed her problem with insurance down to health insurance. Or, in her case, lack of health insurance.
As our waitress explained, she is a 45-year-old single woman working hard to make a living in a job that doesn’t offer health coverage. She said that her fear is that if some huge health problem comes along, both her health and her simple finances will be ruined.
Why the fear? Well, common sense may be one answer. But the experience of a friend, also without health insurance, brings it home. This friend had had heart surgery and she ended up with a humongous health care tab that is threatening to push her into bankruptcy.