The (satirical) case against health care reform

THE (SATIRICAL) CASE AGAINST HEALTH CARE REFORM…. Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter writes that when it comes to our health care system, “everything is just fine the way it is.” He added, “I’ve got health insurance and I don’t give a damn about the 47 million suckers who don’t.”

Fortunately, Alter was not only kidding, he was also offering a striking takedown of those who are fighting to kill reform.

I had cancer a few years ago. I like the fact that if I lose my job, I won’t be able to get any insurance because of my illness. It reminds me of my homeowners’ insurance, which gets canceled after a break-in. I like the choice I’d face if, God forbid, the cancer recurs — sell my house to pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment, or die. That’s what you call a “post-existing condition.”

I like the absence of catastrophic insurance today. It meant that my health-insurance plan (one of the better ones, by the way) only covered about 75 percent of the cost of my cutting-edge treatment. That’s as it should be — face cancer and shell out huge amounts of money at the same time. Nice.

I like the “lifetime limits” that many policies have today. Missed the fine print on that one, did you? It means that after you exceed a certain amount of reimbursement, you don’t get anything more from the insurance company. That’s fair.

Speaking of fair, it seems fair to me that cost-cutting bureaucrats at the insurance companies — not doctors — decide what’s reimbursable. After all, the insurance companies know best.

Yes, the insurance company status quo rocks. I learned recently about something called the “loading fees” of insurance companies. That’s how much of every health-care dollar gets spent by insurance companies on things other than the medical care — paperwork, marketing, profits, etc. According to a University of Minnesota study, up to 47 percent of all the money going into the health-insurance system is consumed in “loading fees.” Even good insurance companies spend close to 30 percent on nonmedical stuff. Sweet.

Reading Alter’s piece reminded me a lot of President Obama’s revised pitch this week, framing reform in more of a consumer-driven context. The White House, shifting to address the concerns of those who already have insurance, started talking more about how reform would prevent coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions, impose caps on charges for out-of-pocket expenses on private insurers, prohibit dropping coverage for those who get serious illnesses, and bar annual and lifetime caps on coverage.

The concerns that Alter skewer so effectively are exactly the kind of changes Democratic reform proposals would address. The more proponents remind Americans of that, the better.