“I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal.” — Roger Hodgson
Last week marked one of those moments everyone dreads every year. You combine three things that no teacher likes. First, the Astros were in the playoffs and we were stuck here at school. Secondly, it was faculty meeting day. Those are always fun as you test out the combination of stuff that no one needs to hear, stuff that could be conveyed in an email, and stuff that people will confuse and ask several ridiculous questions about.
Yet, it was the third reason why this moment was a special kind of hell. It was the benefits meeting we have every year. In this case, “benefits” is a fancy, ubiquitous word that actually means health care insurance. If you saw the specifics you wouldn’t see much of a benefit.
See, the district has its own plan. Sure, Aetna runs it, but they have put all of the employees into a pool and the insurance rates are based purely on how much we spent the year before. Obviously, the district isn’t trying to make money off of us, but Aetna sure is. Since people spent more money last year (gee, why would that happen) they hiked our rates 25 percent. I’ve never been so happy not to be a part of that insurance plan.
It was impossible not to somehow extrapolate this situation outward. Citizens over 65 get the benefit of Medicare. It is a government insurance program that is designed to break even. Millions of Americans are part of a pool that is also based on average costs across the pool. Older (or more experienced) Americans are more apt to get sick and need expensive medical procedures. Yet, somehow they end up spending less per month than teachers in our district. Keep in mind that district makes a contribution to “defray” the costs of the insurance.
It’s up against this backdrop that we bring up the concept of Medicare for all. The process is actually simpler than people might imagine. It isn’t free health care. We know the program works because we have been using it for years. The caveat is that it might actually become cheaper. You are currently basing rates on the amount of risk and that risk is greater for people 65 and over. If you expanded it to include everyone you’d include healthy children, young adults, and relatively healthier middle aged Americans.
It comes with other advantages as well. One of the reasons why rates are so high is that we are footing the bill for everyone that cannot afford care. It’s a similar concept to Wal-Mart building in the cost of theft into their inventory. They will pass the costs onto the consumer. If everyone is covered then there’s no reason to jack up the costs.
It means that you don’t have to worry about whether your doctor is in network or out of network. They are all in the network. You don’t have to worry about changing jobs or possibly going to work for yourself. Companies save millions as they can defer all of the money spent on “benefits” into actual benefits. What would honestly happen if they folded over the district’s contribution to our insurance into our salary?
Who is against this? Obviously the insurance industry is against it. They make between a 20 to 30 percent markup for running the system. Decisions are based on profit margins and stockholder considerations. You talk about your death panels. One considers sustainability of the whole system. The other considers whether Daddy Warbucks will get a dividend this year.
This is basic math and basic common sense. Yet, we are told how complicated it is. We are told that it’s socialism. We are told that the only industrialized country in the world that still has for profit health care insurance is somehow the system that makes sense. If you dare question that they’ll be calling you a radical, a liberal, or fanatical criminal.