It seems like only yesterday I went to the marketplace to pick a health insurance plan that was right for me and my family. Already, it was tricky because New York State had some cockamamie law in place that prevented insurance companies from underselling a certain level-benefit, in order to not compete against the state subsidized “Healthy NY” program, which was designed, in effect, for pregnant teenagers in New York City and Albany.
Despite that, I remember the good ole days, when I had, I think, nine different plans to choose from. Even though I am a sole proprietor, I was able to join a group through the chamber of commerce, which spread morbidity risk, you see, lowering costs.
The giant gavel of Spring 2010 struck. Almost immediately, cost increases accelerated until, after a few short years, the plans were double in price. Last year, the law forced me out of my group because I am a sole proprietor. I joined the New York State co-op because it had the most affordable plan. The premiums were somewhat less than before, but the deductible was sky-high, and the care was less amenable to my needs.
In other words, instead of a suite of plans to choose from, I was forced into one. I mean, I could conceivably have chosen a different plan, but the price was, shall we say, prohibitive.
I just received a letter from the co-op announcing that the New York State Insurance Commission is forcing them to close at the end of November 2015, and that I should look for a new plan for December of 2015 before I go through the dreaded Exchange to pick a plan for 2016. Something about a $250 million debt and sick people in Upstate New York. I don’t live in Upstate New York. I live in Western New York.
What a disaster.
How did this happen? Why can’t I just go get health care and pay for it myself? Why can’t I negotiate with an insurance company for a plan that suits my family’s needs? I was doing just fine in the cold, cruel, unprotected marketplace before. What’s going on?
Why bother? Just tell me where to sign. Here, take my stuff. What do you want me to do? Just tell me, OK? I’m exhausted. I give up. Which line do I shuffle toward? Should I look you in the eyes, in make-believe fashion, or should I keep my eyes to the ground like a good little citizen?
Just to spell it out so there’s no misunderstanding: I’m mourning the state’s subsuming a large chunk of my manhood unto itself.
Exemptions, ladies and gentlemen, did not apply to the individual market, for obvious political reasons. How much longer are those exemptions from which you currently benefit going to hold back the tides of the marketplace?
No worries, though, my friends. Pretty soon, the metric for health care will be reduced to one thing: not customer satisfaction, not affordability, not availability, not quality, but efficiency.
And it will be efficient.