It comes as no surprise that insurance in this country is an expensive endeavor for most Americans. Common injuries like breaking an arm are more expensive in the United States than in any other developed country, especially for those not on insurance. And that’s not to mention the effect Big Pharma has on drug prices, an issue almost entirely out of the government’s hands that causes crazy price inflation for many important medicines. But that’s another issue. Insurance in and of itself is a highly contested issue, one that has the country pitted against itself — some people looking for the government to take a larger role in ensuring health care for the public, and others seeking a privatized approach.
Here in Massachusetts, those national issues are critically important to our citizens, but they are not the only debate going on in the arena of health insurance.
A state commision voted Thursday to cut three key health-insurers from the insurance options of labor unions which represent Massachusetts public employees. The decision seemingly blindsided both employees and the unions representing them, many of whom expressed frustration in the agency’s lack of transparency and miscommunication. The commission maintains that it had discussed this idea for several months, and claims that after conducting research, most employees will be able to keep their doctors.
Regardless, switching to a different provider is a cumbersome process and one that involves significant paperwork. For those who require immediate medical care, particularly the chronically ill, this could be an especially tedious and concerning process. It could potentially delay care those to who need it in order to be healthy and stay alive.
While the change would be fiscally sound for the government — saving $20.8 million in the state’s budget next year — insurance is essential for everyone. And the sheer number of public employees affected by the commission’s vote is especially concerning. The commission is responsible for the health care for 442,000 state employees. Not only would this vote affect the health care benefits of those individuals, but also their families, including children. Most of America’s youth are insured through their parent’s provider. As a result of this decision, we could be looking at more Americans not receiving full coverage — and that’s not a road we want to go down.
In this country, the insurance system is notorious for having its fair share of issues. With members of Congress debating switching to universal health care, specifically single-payer insurance — health insurance remains to be one of the most divisive issues today. Several decisions have been made in the past in order to come to a resolution on the issue. For example, the Affordable Care Act, introduced by the Obama administration in 2010 in an attempt to get every American on health care, and Trump administration’s repeal of that law is a testament to how complicated and split of an issue this is. But what shouldn’t divisive is this: health care is a basic human right. Some might argue that insurance itself isn’t, but as it stands, receiving adequate health care means having health insurance. So surely, being insured should be a right for every American.
It’s time to start thinking of health insurance as not an economic issue, but a social one. We should treat insurance as an issue that affects the livelihoods of individuals and their families. Being insured means being able to have access to care that allows you to live, and organizations, especially governmental ones, should not cut corners on issues that affects our most treasured right to life.