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Friday, December 17, 2010

Apples and oranges

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

Those opposed to the Affordable Care Act have said a lot of crazy things to mislead Americans. From false talking points about health reform being responsible for double digit premium increases for policy holders, to the outright lie that the law is a “government takeover of health care,” the opposition has made it their job to misinform the public.

Fearmongers will continue to spread rumors, distort the truth, and say whatever they can to persuade Americans that dozens of new consumer protections are a bad thing.

So when we recently read a blog post on Forbes that just didn’t add up, we had to set the record straight.

The author of the blog compares purchasing health coverage to paying one’s monthly cell phone bill. Setting aside the fact that he’s pretty much comparing apples and oranges, what the author really does in this piece is demonstrate just how little he knows about the problems that uninsured Americans face.

He argues that those who have the money to buy a cell phone can (and should) be able to purchase insurance:

An individual health insurance policy and a monthly cell phone plan are roughly the same price, which means there are many people who supposedly can’t afford health insurance, yet are paying for a cell phone. 

To which we respectfully say: “No.”

Sure, there may be one person in 1,000  who is young and healthy and has no pre-existing conditions who might be able to get coverage for the average price of a cell phone bill. But this is certainly the exception, not the rule. The author fails to understand that affordable coverage in the individual market is much harder to come by than a good cell phone plan.

The truth is, many of those who are uninsured simply cannot afford the cost of premiums that are rising significantly faster than working American’s paychecks.

When you apply for insurance on the individual market, people known as “medical underwriters” thoroughly scan your medical history to find even minor health care issues as an excuse to jack up your premiums. If you’ve had acne as a teenager, your rates can go up significantly. Do you have allergies? Yup, those could cause your rates to go up, too. Are you a woman of child bearing age? You guessed it— your rates would most likely go up. So then, the question is: Do they do that when you purchase a phone? No.

Unless you have had zero health problems and are young, you will likely have a very hard time finding coverage for the price of an average monthly cell phone bill.

And misconceptions like this one have been spread by opponents of reform since the beginning of the debate about the Affordable Care Act. They continue to ignore the harsh reality that many Americans face every day in obtaining affordable health insurance. It’s time we set the record straight.