Category Archive - Issues and Opinion

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Are Health Insurance Brokers An Endangered Species?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Image: H. Michael Karshis under CC 3.0

In many states, regulators fear that health insurance brokers are falling by the wayside. The healthcare reform law passed this year requires that a certain percentage of premiums be spent on providing medical care, as opposed to being spent on administrative costs.

Some consider brokers as middlemen, standing in the way of affordable health insurance by creating yet another level of bureaucracy. However, they can help people navigate the confusing variety of plans available and shop around–although that purpose may become irrelevant once states get their own health insurance exchanges up and running.

In addition, many brokers may end up out of work if they cannot adapt to the changes in the market and regulatory environment.

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Should Republicans Drop Their Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The GOP believes that the federal government should stay out of health care. Some liberal union groups are calling their bluff, and challenging Republican politicians to opt out of the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Plan.

While the strategy is appealing, there are significant pitfalls. Most strikingly, the FEHBP is at its core an employer-sponsored health insurance plan–the employer just happens to be in the public sector. The GOP has never expressed opposition for that type of coverage.

A handful of representatives and senators may take up the challenge, however, to score political points. Some are independently wealthy and can easily afford individual coverage.

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Which Country Has The Most Disputes with Health Insurance Companies?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Most people agree that health care is an essential good, though they may disagree on how to go about providing it. Yet, a recent survey shows that millions the world over are forced to skip it because of the high cost. In order to maintain profitability, health insurers want to keep costs down. However, this often results in disputes between patients and health insurance companies over coverage.

According to the Commonwealth Fund’s findings, one nation sees more of these battles than others: the United States. Other industrialized nations, such as Germany and Switzerland, are believe to have less complex systems. Some have more private sector involvement than others, but the survey’s authors generally believe that they manage to provide more affordable health insurance (America has the highest per-capita spending on it) without as much hassles.

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59 Million Americans Without Health Insurance Last Year

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a survey that found that 59.1 million people in the United States were uninsured for at least some part of 2010. In contrast, just 56.8 million were uninsured in 2008.

One in three middle-income adults (considered to have annual incomes between $43,000 and $65,000) under the age of 65 lacked a health insurance plan some time during the past twelve months, according to the CDC survey.

Many blame the recession for this turn of events, since millions have become unemployed and therefore lost their employer-sponsored health benefits.

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Texas Medicaid Health Insurance in Danger

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Image: jpo under CC 3.0

Across the country, states are struggling to balance their budgets. (Unlike the federal government, they don’t have the luxury of running a deficit.) This generally requires some combination of raising revenue through taxes and cutting spending programs.

The Republicans that triumphed in the midterm elections are adamant about only using the former. In Texas, they are even considering cutting the affordable health insurance program for the poor, Medicaid. Although the program itself is largely run by the federal government, state governments contribute.

According to supporters of the withdrawal, Texas would launch its own health plan for the impoverished. Many aren’t holding their breath. There is also speculation that the proposal is at least partially intended to spite the Obama administration in Washington for getting involved in individual Texas health insurance matters.

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Obama Didn’t Realize Affordable Health Insurance Reform Would Be So Hard

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Image: Beverly & Pack under CC 3.0

After his party’s drubbing in the midterm elections, President Obama is Monday-morning quarterbacking. In an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, he admitted that he didn’t expect the passage and implementation of affordable health insurance reform to have such a high political cost.

Many would consider this view naive, given that presidents have struggled with the complex system for decades. Also, there are many interest groups heavily involved, with a major stake in the issue.

According to Obama, he assumed that his incorporation of proposals previously advanced by Republicans such as Mitt Romney would help bring about some compromise with the GOP. As it turns out, the final product ended up pleasing few: progressive Democrats wanted more, while conservatives wanted far less.

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Athletes Struggle To Find a Health Insurance Plan

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Image: Studio Finch under CC 3.0

Intuitively, most marathon runners and other serious athletes would be a good bet for health insurance plan providers. They are extremely fit, making them less likely to develop chronic health conditions like diabetes. On the other hand, they are actively working towards better health.

However, there’s a catch in that model of an ideal investment: injuries. So far, health insurers have reserved the right to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and a severe injury or accident could qualify. Either the policy will cover everything except treatment related to the injury, or they will be denied a policy altogether. (The healthcare reform law looks to end this in 2014.) In addition, even minor sprains or other injuries require doctor’s and hospital visits, driving up health insurance costs.

On the bright side, many distance runners buying individual health plans tend to be on the young side, making their coverage cost less.

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Should Pro Wrestlers Be Given Health Insurance Plans?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Image: David Seto under CC 3.0

Although the story lines of professional wrestling are fake, the health risks are as real as can be. During the course of their job, wrestlers are often injured.

Strangely, in an industry that puts its workers at risk, they are not provided with health insurance plans. That is because pro wrestlers are generally considered independent contractors (although they cannot work for competing companies–this is especially the case under World Wrestling Entertainment). The biggest stars can afford to pay for their health care outright, but mid-card wrestlers will find it very difficult to find health coverage–due to their myriad pre-existing conditions and high-risk occupation. Former WWE executive Linda McMahon is currently running for the Senate in Connecticut; as a Republican, this status of her workers has been criticized.

Former WWE wrestler Mick Foley claims that being reclassified as an employee–and therefore having employer-sponsored health insurance–isn’t all positive. Currently, wrestlers receive potentially lucrative royalties for every usage of their image; WWE, especially, regularly releases DVDs and paid Internet and On Demand TV screening. As employees, they would lose that income stream. In other words, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.

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Health Insurance Plans’ Autism Coverage Under Fire

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Image: Bob Bobster under CC 3.0

Republicans running for Congress this year are touting their anti-Obamacare credentials. Nevada’s Sharron Angle is no different. Boosted by the tea party past a more moderate candidate in the GOP primary, she is going up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. As one of the key architects behind the controversial healthcare reform law, Reid is in danger of losing his seat.

Angle is obviously against the individual coverage mandate, as well as health insurance plans being forced to cover certain conditions. She blames the latter for raising costs. Video from a speech last year on that issue has recently been released to controversy. In that speech, Angle railed against a state law that requires health insurers to cover early treatment for autism spectrum disorders. When she mentioned the word “autism”, she used air quotes, which some have interpreted as meaning that she doesn’t believe that autism is a legitimate condition that children’s health insurance should treat.

Not done offending people, Angle went on to say that maternity coverage should not be mandated, since she herself is done having children.

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