The following was written by an independent insurance agent who prefers anonymity. It was originally published on the Socialist Worker website
TO START with, I think it is important to point out that I completely support a single-payer system, despite my job depending on the status quo in the health insurance industry.
As a part of my job, I meet many people who can’t afford health insurance. I see the pain, stress, fear and uncertainty that stems from not having insurance–it’s obvious to me that we need a quality health care system that is truly accessible to everyone. I am not the only agent in the business who believes this. We small-time agents, in particular, know that major changes are needed because we see the problems in the current system every day.
“Obamacare” does not, and will not, help everyone be able to afford health insurance, and it also doesn’t guarantee quality insurance will be available. There will still be holes in coverage. Expensive co-pays on prescriptions and hospital visits, high premiums and high deductibles are just a few general problems with the 2014 health insurance plans. This is what happens when the major insurance companies are entrusted with designing the plans and the system–it becomes all about profit, not about helping people.
Exacerbating the problem of access to affordable health care for 2014 is the abysmal website that is the federal insurance exchange. To date, I have only actually gotten into the system a handful of times, and I try every day because I am trying to help clients.
The system constantly times-out or doesn’t work at all. There are complex identity checks as part of the application process, which slows the whole system down. There is no portal at all for agents to run quotes in order speed up the process for the people we are trying to help. The quick quotes that are available to people without creating an account are inaccurate and offer no specifics on the plans in their areas, making that part of the website useless and misleading.
I had a woman come up to me a couple weeks ago clearly distressed, and tell me that she didn’t know what to do anymore and that she wanted to give up, even though she’s worried about leaving her children uninsured.
She had been getting up at 2 a.m. in order to try to get on to the federal exchange, and still couldn’t get through the system. She needs insurance by January 1 because her previous insurance plan will end that day, and so far, she can’t sign up on the exchange and can’t find a quality plan within her price range off the exchange. I feel helpless and sad because I can’t help her, despite my best efforts.
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ON TOP of all of the systematic problems, the insurance companies, quite unsurprisingly, are completely abusing the system. I was looking up plans through a local HMO the other day and it quickly became obvious through comparison that plans offered by this company through the federal exchange–in other words, those that qualify for a subsidy–were much more expensive than the plans offered off the exchange. This is a classic example of a company taking advantage of the new system in order to make even higher profits than before.
I’m not sure how widespread this particular problem is, but it seems that in general, health insurance will still be very expensive in 2014. You can be sure that the insurance companies have rigged the new system so that they will come out on top in every instance.
Of course, there are some people who this new law will help. People with preexisting conditions will be able to get insurance. Women won’t pay more than men for insurance. And some people will find good subsidized plans. But even though the system is better than it was, it is not going to be a good system for the average citizen. We must continue to push for substantial health care reform and a single-payer system.