There is a fundamental structural problem with the health care system in the US, and it is one which almost no one talks about: Health insurance is tied to employment. This is true in the US, and in very few other developed countries. Most countries seem to understand what I am about to say very well. In the US, not so much.
You see, my wife has been very, very ill. For more information on her situation, see my post on Seratonin Syndrome. Suffice it to say, she has had a life-threatening illness for at least 4 months, was admitted to UNC Hospital less than two weeks ago as I write this, and very easily could have died. During that period, my job performance suffered, understandably.
And herein lies the problem: One of the principle sources of job instability is health issues, either on the part of the breadwinner (which happened for me as well, more on this later), or on the part of one of the breadwinner’s family members. Yesterday, my boss called me, and basically chewed me out, threatening all kinds of dire consequences if my job performance doesn’t improve. And this conversation occurred, again, less than 2 weeks after my wife was discharged from UNC Hospital after suffering a life-threatening illness.
So here it is: Our system relies on the employer to be understanding, decent, and altruistic. For many, many folks, this assumption is false. It certainly is for me. So therefore this leads inevitable to the most predictable of all personal catastophies: First someone in my family gets sick, then I lose my job, and thus the health insurance for my family. This same scenario is being played out, over and over again, in families all over the US.
I have to say, Obamacare is a huge quantum-leap improvement in this very important area in ways that dramatically affect my wife’s and my daily life. We both have pre-existing conditions that cannot be used any longer to deny us coverage. Also, if I do lose my job, Obamacare makes affordable options available.
Folks who oppose Obamacare seem delusional to me now: Just wait until this most predictable personal catastrophe hits your life. You might have a different perspective at that point.
It is true that providing health insurance through you employer leaves your vulnerabie to losing it if you lose your job. It also creates a two tiered system. Some like us while employed with large companies have very low rates for our health insurance, especially in the tech industry where the workers tend to be younger and balance less healthy workers. Obamacare does address a number of the issues of access to insurance and predatory pricing. I say predatory because those in the most need are often charged the most for insurance and even for the actual services should they have no insurance.