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Archive for July 30th, 2009

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I thought this piece from Matt Yglesias was interesting regarding reforms other than the public option.

The most important part of the bills that actually exist—the part that will impact the lives of most Americans—are the new regulations on insurers.

The administration is proposing:

— A ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

— Caps on out-of-pocket spending.

— No cost-sharing for preventive care.

— No “rescission” of coverage for people who get seriously ill.

— No gender discrimination.

— No caps on coverage, either lifetime or annual.

— Extension of family coverage for kids up to the age of 26.

— Guaranteed insurance renewal.

The fact that liberals like to talk about the uninsured and Peter Orszag likes to talk about bending the curve and I, personally, like writing about tax policy and don’t like seeing doctors has tended to obscure this whole set of issues. But your typical middle-aged, middle-class voter is going to be impacted dramatically by this stuff and fairly little by all the rest of it. This is also, in political terms, the stuff that polls really well. The “goodies.”

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, since the bulleted points above are just proposals and not reality, but Yglesias raises a good point. The above reforms would certainly mean a lot to people like me — people who already have insurance.

What’s amazing is that we didn’t create these regulations decades ago. I mean isn’t it pretty straightforward? Think about it. Each state has an insurance commissioner whose sole job is to make sure that people don’t get screwed over by insurance companies, and yet not one state has these types of regulations.

A few years back there was a noted story in Seattle about a man who tried to crash his vehicle into his girlfriend’s vehicle while driving ultra-fast on the highway. In making this attempt, the man veered into another car and a woman in that care was seriously injured. Her car insurance company, Farmers Insurance as it happens, refused to pay for her hospitable bills because they posited that the accident was intentional. The man meant to hit her car. Well in truth, the man meant to hit his girlfriend’s car and he didn’t care a lick about this other woman. The state insurance commissioner told Farmers Insurance that if they didn’t pay the innocent bystander’s hospital bills, FI would no longer be allowed to sell car insurance in Washington state. FI reversed their original position.

So why haven’t insurance commissioners played hardball with the health insurance companies? I really don’t know the distinction here and I don’t know a lot about this topic, but from a consumer standpoint it really confuses me.

If the Dems can get these new regulations through, I think it will be an important victory. I just can’t believe it’s taken this long to get here.

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