by Sabrina L. Schaeffer • Forbes
It finally arrived – the letter from my health insurance company announcing that my family will be moved to a new plan beginning January 1, that “meets all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act” . . . for a mere $500 more a month.
I knew this was coming. Golden Rule has been sending me “warning” letters for months now. But really I’ve known this was coming for much longer – ever since Congress created the government-run, one-size-fits-all system known as ObamaCare. And I’ve watched as millions of others – like those on MyCancellation.com – have gone through the same ordeal of losing plans they liked and could afford.
Unfortunately a lot of the blame goes to my fellow women’s groups – not the Independent Women’s Forum, of course – but progressive outlets like UltraViolet, NOW, Feminist Majority, and Emily’s List, which campaigned for expanding specific “rights” for women’s health care with no consideration for how these “benefits” would impact individual bank accounts, the economy, and our freedom.
It’s well-noted that women have unique healthcare needs. Not only do we require maternity care, but also we make the majority of decisions related to our family’s health care, take the majority of prescription drugs, and spend about two-thirds of the healthcare dollars. All of this is true for me personally.
But I’d argue that everyone has unique healthcare needs. In fact, no two people are exactly the same. I know this from experience. One might assume that my situation is typical of other women, but then I look at the women on my staff and see just how varied we are: One newly married without children, others just beginning families, still others whose family and situation might appear very similar to mine on the surface, but really have healthcare needs significantly different from mine.
This diversity is why we need a health care system that features flexibility and choice – rather than more top-down government control – so that we can each find plans and coverage that fit our specific needs as well as our budgets.
I have a family of five, and our current health insurance is a high-deductible plan. Like most things in life, it isn’t perfect. The monthly premium is affordable, but without $10 co-pays I think carefully about how often to visit my children’s pediatrician. I paid out of pocket for annual exams at my obstetrician, but the plan provided the protection we needed when my husband had to have an emergency appendectomy.
Bottom line: it suited our healthcare and financial needs. It offered a level of risk my family was comfortable with and tradeoffs that made sense for us. But our plan and preferences are no longer legal because of ObamaCare.
America’s health care system was imperfect before Congress passed ObamaCare. Namely high prices, a lack of transparency, and limited consumer control – most of which was a result of decades of government intervention into the health care industry – cursed the system. Today, as government has taken on an even bigger role in micromanaging the health care system through ObamaCare, the problems are worsening, stripping away even more individualization and leaving consumers with fewer choices, higher prices, and declining care.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A fellow Forbes contributor asked me recently on Fox News Channel’s Forbes on Fox, where I’m a weekly panelist, how I would make things better. How would my proposed market-based policy reforms have prevented me from getting the letter I opened this morning?
The big answer is markets understand individualization and the need to meet consumers unique needs. And a real market in health care would allow me to customize a health insurance plan that balanced my needs with my budget – not just offer me four prohibitively expensive plans with coverage I don’t want. I should be able to customize my health plan the same way I can customize my cable package, my cell phone, my grocery cart, even my clothing shopping.
One of the great failures of ObamaCare is that typical of government: it views us as all “kind of the same” – an unmarried woman, a family of four, a senior man – rather than as individuals with unique preferences and requirements. Changing this mindset doesn’t require a miracle, only smart policies that would expand the health care marketplace and encourage insurance companies to cater to individuals rather than groups.
There are many policy changes that can move us in that direction: Reforming the tax code so that individuals receive the same tax benefits as corporations, enabling a citizen to purchase health insurance outside of her state of residence, and remove coverage mandates so individuals can choose insurance packages that meet their needs.
What was lost on Democratic lawmakers and progressive activists is that when government gets into the business of health care, bureaucrats in Washington and at large insurance companies are making the decisions, not individuals. The best thing for women – and for all Americans – is not a one-size-fits-all health care system modeled for a person “like me.” It’s a market that allows for the greatest freedom of choice so individuals can make determinations for themselves.
The architects of ObamaCare ignored what all the “free” benefits would cost the economy, our tax burden, and our individual wallets. Let’s just hope this is one system that is too big not to fail.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.