Niagara Gazette

November 13, 2013

DELUCA: Health care had to be fixed

Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Say what you want about "ObamaCare." Somebody had to do something. 

I want to ask all the detractors battling against the Affordable Care Act, "don't you look at your health insurance bills?"

For the past several years, I've watched as my husband, owner of a small business, struggled to understand the ever-rising costs of full health care coverage for his  employees. Every year he has looked up from his health insurance bill and asked me, "do you believe it went up again?"  

And that's not the worst of it.  Most of us are a single catastrophic illness away from losing everything.  

I keep writing news stories about fundraisers for those who have cancer or some other horrific disease. The events, planned by friends and families, are held to help those already fighting for their lives, so that their families aren't ravaged by the patient's outrageously high medical bills.

We have a system of health care that can bankrupt those who most need it. Who thinks this is a good idea?  

The president seems to be the only one willing to risk his political career on the issue of health care.  I can't quite figure out what so many other politicians are doing.

Perhaps because Congress is blessed — by us, their constituents — with the gold standard of benefits, it's harder for them to feel sympathetic to those of us forced to pay increasingly crazy-high premiums and growing co-pays.

There are so many are raging against the Affordable Care Act, that I have to ask: Why on God's green earth aren't you coming up with a better idea?

Health care is out of control. It's killing people financially. And, if people have to opt out of care they can't afford, it will really be killing them.

Certainly, there's been problems with the implementation of "ObamaCare." The act is far from perfect. But, it's something. 

Most of us have some discomfort with requiring people and companies to pay a penalty for those who aren't provided with or who chose not to purchase health care. But, really, it's like car insurance — which is required so that you don't have to pay when someone else hits you with their car.

People who don't have insurance often go to emergency rooms for their health care. Because the costs of emergency room care is so high, those bills often don't get paid.  And that's part of the reason costs of health care are so astronomical for the rest of us.

So, how do we fix that problem without requiring everybody to have health care? 

Certainly, the federal website could have been ready for the thousands who clicked on the link hoping to learn more or to sign up for "affordable care."  But these things happen. We in New York can go directly to the state exchange, which seems to have always been working fairly acceptably (www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov).

Lot of people were alarmed by letters of cancellation they were sent. Yes, somebody could have warned them. But, the way it was explained to me, their plans didn't have one of ten points of coverage that the feds now require, such as emergency care, hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity, and newborn care for those who need it. Since our state has been requiring most of those things for years it's nothing new for those of us here.

I covered a forum this week, presented by Bene-Care, the benefits advisor to the Niagara Falls NY Chamber of Commerce, and the company's area director Jonelle Marchese confirmed what I have been hoping to hear. Individual health insurance will be a lot cheaper for those who buy through the exchange. Period.

If you have shopped for health insurance the past few years, you know it has been running, on average, about $12,000 a year for an individual. That's about a thousand dollars a month. These days, on the exchange, it's less than half that price. Still too high, but at least it's something.

Who can honestly say that's a bad thing?   

To those fussing out there about how bad "ObamaCare," is, I challenge you to go ahead and come up with a better plan.   

Somebody needs to fix health care now. Until then — if you want to make our president look bad for your own political gains — please find another way to do it.