Insurance crises prove the sky IS falling

Health policy experts: individual market is "fundamentally broken"

We thought this editorial cartoon in the Kansas City Star was pretty good – and not just because we agree with them on that whole Global Warming thing. We also got a chuckle because it hit so close to home in terms of the ongoing health reform debate.

We’d rewrite the caption to read, “If being cold means there’s no such thing as global warming, does the fact that some folks say they’re happy with their health insurance mean there’s no health care crisis?”

The answer is that the apparent adequacy of employer-sponsored health coverage for millions does not mean that our system is A-OK. Far from it, in fact. The skyrocketing premiums promised for customers of Anthem Blue Cross last week are evidence that those nutty health reformers were really on to something when they said the sky was falling.

And it’s not just Anthem. As health policy experts continue to point out, the individual health insurance market is “fundamentally broken.” Rates are soaring in a growing number of states. Increased insurance costs are hitting small employers. Folks who signed up for private plans through Medicare are facing sharp increases in their premiums.

Who’s not in trouble? As much as the industry protests, we’re not convinced it’s hurting – or just getting by – when we see numbers like this.

Now, Democrats AGAIN see an opening. (If they didn’t see it, we’d be sending them to the optometrist post haste.) They’re lining up again to support a public optionthat would give consumers affordable options to plans that seem destined for luxury status. (It’s bad enough that some folks don’t consider health insurance a right. But should it really be a luxury reserved for Americans with higher incomes?)

President Obama and supporters of his health reform agenda are about to meet (we hope) in a summit with opponents of his proposals. We hope they can have a healthy dialogue, but frankly, we’re not optimistic.

If the two sides can’t find common ground, it’s time for proponents to do whatever it takes – even if it means going it alone – to move forward and get reforms passed.

Because let’s face it the sky really IS falling.

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