Most Americans agree that health care reform is needed – but what shape that reform takes is an ongoing debate. And how that reform will affect chronic pain patients is rarely mentioned.
Personally I have a lot to gain from a health care reform policy that provides coverage for everyone because right now no one will insure me at any price. In spite of that, I find myself with serious reservations about the plan currently under consideration.
Let me say upfront that I haven't read the whole plan, so anything I refer to as being in the bill is something I've heard or read in news reports. Actually, I'm not sure anyone has read the entire bill. It's still being debated and amended, so I don't think it has been published online – at least I haven't been able to find it. From what I hear, it's well over 1,000 pages of legalese – not exactly bedtime reading. (I did find a 615-page version submitted by Senator Kennedy about six weeks ago, but that has since undergone many changes.)
Charting the Plan
Although I couldn't find a copy of the entire bill, I did find a chart depicting how the proposed plan would work:
If you'd like to see a larger, readable version of the chart, click here. I don't know about you, but to me this looks like a nightmare of bureaucracy. I have no idea where I would fit into this plan, but it scares me to think of how nuch red tape would potentially stand between me and my doctor's ability to provide the care I need.
While there are many aspects of this bill that bother me, five specific issues cause me grave concern:
1.) The administration insists that this is not a plan for universal health care, private insurance companies will still be able to operate, and if you have a private insurance policy you like, you can keep it. Technically, that's true. What they don't tell you, though, is that as the bill is currently written, if you don't have a private insurance policy in place when the bill takes effect, you will not be allowed to get one. You will be forced to take the government policy.
How long do you think private insurance companies will be able to continue if they can't get new customers? And even though the company you work for may have a private insurance policy now, if the government offers a less expensive policy, how long do you think they will keep offering the private insurance? In my opinion, even though this may not start out as universal coverage, within a few years it will be.
2.) The administration also says that you will be able to keep your current doctor. Again, that is true – at least for the time being. What they don't tell you is that the care your doctor is allowed to give you will be regulated and rationed. Some cost-cutting features already written into the bill include:
• Limiting MRIs, CAT scans and other diagnostic tools