(Chicago) – OP-ED: This is a story about how health insurance was broken for me, and how the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) helped.
It is not about what I deserve. It is not about insurance companies being good or bad. If you want to draw those sorts of conclusions you can.
I’m just going to write about my situation, with facts you can look up and confirm yourself.
First, here’s some information about myself. I’m a white male, born in 1980. I’m married and have a son, with a second on the way. I’m a political consultant. I’ve employed people in the past, but am currently self employed.
And yes, I’ve been paid to support Obamacare. I’ve worked for Congress members who voted for it, and for companies that wanted it to pass. It’s not happening at the moment, but if that sort of thing is important to you, there it is.
These details are all important, and I’ll mention them in future posts.
The first time I realized American health insurance was broken was as an employer. A job creator, a self made small businessman of stump speech fame.
It was 2007, and I had just made my first hire. Now professional Democrats are an odd bunch. We’re not that nice to our staff. We pay them crap, we send them out to volunteer for campaigns, and when the election is over a lot of them get laid off.
But one thing we do is give them health insurance.
It’s a big deal to us. We like health care. Whatever else we do, our staff can go to the doctor when we drive them crazy and work them to death.
So I set about getting small group quotes.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois is a pretty popular insurer in Illinois. It commands a massive majority of the market share, and almost all providers accept one or more of its plans. So after looking around a bit, I settled on applying to BC/BS for my small group plan.
I was pretty happy with the initial quote. Their traditional PPO (the most inclusive plan available) had a very small deductible of $500, for a monthly premium of $236 per employee:
Great stuff! So I filled out all the paperwork, making sure along the way that my new employee’s existing doctors were covered. Everything was going pretty well.
And then I got the final offer. It was a bit of a shock:
Surprised at the offer going up by fifty percent, I called the BC/BS sales rep. And she explained why the rates had been adjusted:
I had hired a woman.
The plan, you see, had contraception coverage. It had maternity coverage. At that meant that if I hired a woman of childbearing age, the rates were going to reflect that. In fact, the more women I hired, the more it was going to rise. There would be an employee census every year and they would adjust the rates accordingly.
I accepted the offer.
Incidentally, I was not a good person for doing that. I said that health coverage is important to Democrats, and it is. It’s also important to professional Democrats to have relatively gender-equal workforces. A lot of our talent pool are women. One of our largest interest groups is dedicated to electing women. It behooves any reasonably ambitious Democratic consultant to run a women-friendly workplace.
And that’s not the case for a lot of industries, particularly with small businesses.
Small businesses get loads of favors from various governments. They get nice tax treatment, they get subsidized loans and credit lines. And they get exemptions from regulations, in particularly regulations that say we shouldn’t discriminate when hiring.
In other words, there was nothing to stop small businesses from hiring fewer women, or no women, to save on health premiums. And hiring just one woman raised my health insurance costs fifty percent.
And that’s one reason health insurance was broken. It was neither bad nor good. In the previous system, health insurance was underwritten according to the medical backgrounds of the group. Maternity coverage is expensive, and almost half of pregnancies are unplanned in the U.S. The additional costs made sense.
But they also made hiring women much more expensive.
And Obamacare fixed that. Maternity and contraceptive coverage are required now, and premiums for all payers reflect that. It’s a big reason premiums are going up for people who do not need maternity coverage.
Some people complain about that. I guess it’s lousy for them.
But the change also makes the cost of a female employee the same as a male employee when it comes to health coverage.
And if you ask me, that’s a good thing.
Will Caskey, a contributor to The Illinois Observer, is an opposition researcher and partner at Stanford Caskey. A Louisiana native, Will lives in Chicago where he continues to express annoyance with the term “Chicago-style politics.”
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