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Boy did my column on Harvard’s health-care costs strike a nerve! The website was deluged with comments about rising expenses, the problems with Obamacare, the hypocrisy of the experts who helped shape the system, and more!
That makes it abundantly clear to me that Americans are fired up about surging costs — and looking for solutions!
Take Reader Greg. He related his personal situation this way:
“My wife and I bought individual insurance for the last 13 years. We had a $10k deductible and were okay with that. I’m 60 and she is 57 in great health. Our premiums have ranged from $240 a month to $357 when they ended our policy.
“We were notified by Aetna that they could no longer offer our policy because of the Affordable Care Act. Now my deductible is $6,600 but our premium is $1,115 a month.”
|Americans are fired up about surging health-care costs — and looking for solutions!|
That’s a whopping 312 percent increase for those of you not keeping score. So I’m not surprised he ended his comments with this simple question:
“On what planet is that affordable?”
Another commenter, Reader Donald D. shared some valuable insight on his own personal situation — along with a historical accounting of how much his costs changed before AND after the Affordable Care Act took effect.
In 2009, he said his costs rose 3.9 percent. In 2010, they went up 8.6 percent. They rose an average of about 11 percent per year in other years. But how much did his monthly premium change THIS year? A whopping 348.5 percent! His pithy summary?
“So much for affordable health care.”
Reader John R. was even more blunt about the situation, saying:
“I’m shocked that any of these Harvard elites are surprised unless they too felt they would be exempted from the mess they helped create. Has anyone in the real world (that is, anyone who works for a living outside of those in the academia ivory tower, or the administration’s favorites that have been exempted) actually experienced ‘lower’ costs with ‘better’ coverage? I personally haven’t heard of any. Sorry, I live in the real world.”
You could argue I’m pulling from a small sample here. But I’ve read and heard so many horror stories elsewhere too, and they share a common thread: That insurance costs are putting the squeeze on Americans from one end of the country to the other.
|“Insurance costs are putting the squeeze on Americans from one end of the country to the other.”|
At the same time, some commentators have argued the burdens are worth the rewards. Said Reader Dan C.: “Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, the free market had a field day with the American public. We didn’t have a free system at all … rather we were at the mercy of the insurance industry.”
He went on to argue that “As a nation, we all owe it to each other to share the cost of experiencing the American Dream. It is a national, community commitment that makes America great. Let’s continue on down the road of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves … Health care is part of that shared commitment regardless of what so called Conservatives may be proclaiming.”
And as Reader Caine argued, Obamacare has clearly made it so the previously un-insurable can now find coverage. His comments:
“It’s only natural that those who are harmed by any change will scream the loudest.
“My son has a pre-existing medical condition. I was able to sign him up for medical insurance that will cover it, at a very reasonable rate and without any issue. This would not have been possible previously. There are countless numbers of folks giving thanks for this insurance limitation being lifted.”
He added that “My personal insurance premium (marketplace Silver plan) is slightly higher than my last company-paid private insurance program for similar coverage. I am slightly older. Seems reasonable to me.”
But is Obamacare, as currently structured, really the best solution? Many of you disagree – while a few suggested better answers to the health care conundrum.
Taking his turn at the metaphorical microphone, Reader Michael E. said: “It’s time to make healthcare a right and not a privilege. We can change this by changing one word: Eligibility in Medicare begins at birth. With everyone in the pool, prices will plummet and we can join the rest of the free world and make healthcare a right and not a privilege.”
Reader Rick F. had a novel take, saying that “Health insurance is not the solution to rising health care costs, it is the cause of rising health care costs. For most people, it is also a bad investment.”
What alternative makes more sense, in his view?
“Eliminate insurance for regular day-to-day medical checkups/tests, etc. Offer a reasonably priced catastrophic insurance for chronic diseases, accidents, etc. Take out the payment middleman between the doctor and patient.
“Insurance does not work for regular recurring expenditures (would we ever insure electricity purchases, for example?). It is meant for random catastrophic events like your house burning down or a car crash. Give another tax cut to people by taking away insurance and reducing overall healthcare spending for everybody.”
Me? I like to keep things simple. If we can get health-care spending and insurance costs under control, companies will have more money for wage hikes. Consumers will have more money to spend on “fun” stuff, rather than doctor’s office visits and colonoscopies.
That will do a heck of a lot more for the economy than all the rounds of useless QE we’ve gotten from the Federal Reserve. And it’s high time we figure out something that works better than either the previous system, or the Obamacare program that replaced it. Because neither one is getting the job done!
What more do you have to say? I would love to find out, and the Money and Markets website is your outlet!
|Other Developments of the Day|
Gunmen burst into the offices of a French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Some 12 journalists and police officers were murdered in the assault, reportedly by terrorists who shouted “God is great!”
The magazine has been known to publish cartoons satirizing Muslim figures, and its offices were already torched back in 2011. A massive manhunt was underway to find the three suspects.
How’s the U.S. job market doing? Just fine, if you ask the economists at ADP. The payroll processing firm said the U.S. economy created another 241,000 jobs in December. Not only did that top forecasts for a reading of 225,000, but it was also the strongest since June.
European deflation is a key worry for policymakers across the pond, even more so in the wake of the latest figures released today. They showed euro-zone prices falling 0.2 percent year-over-year in December, the first deflationary reading since October 2009. Inflation hasn’t hit the ECB’s 2 percent target for almost two years now.
Emerging market borrowers continue to get squeezed by the dual impact of potentially rising U.S. interest rates and a rising U.S. dollar. That’s particularly true in Asia, where the Wall Street Journal reports that borrowers have been gorging on dollar-denominated debt.
But could the market have already priced that in, what with the recent sharp decline in EM debt ETFs? Could it actually be time to start bottom fishing rather than flee (as I recommended investors do several quarters ago)? Time will tell.
What was life like in Massachusetts in 1795? The world got a peek yesterday, when a time capsule buried under the state house there was opened. It was buried more than 200 years ago by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, and contained silver coins, a silver plate, colonial records and old newspapers.
Ready to comment on these or other stories of the day? Then head over to the website and get started!
Until next time,