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Healthcare for All

Carl Thress | Thursday, January 21, 2016

Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders released details for his single-payer universal healthcare plan. Dubbed Medicare for All, the proposal would cost a family of four making $50,000 per year just $466 annually, with no copays, deductibles, or networks.

The announcement got me thinking about my own family’s health insurance situation. Currently, we are covered by a BCBSND family policy offered through my employer. The company picks up the tab for a single person plan, and the remainder is taken from my pretax income.

As it stands, I’m paying more each month for health insurance than what Senator Sanders projects I would pay for a whole year under his plan. All told, nearly 20 percent of my pretax income goes toward health insurance alone. When you factor in dental insurance and the company’s health savings plan (which allows pretax money to be set aside for medical costs), that number jumps to 25 percent.

So what, you may wonder, do I get for all that money? Well, for starters, I have to remain within my chosen network of doctors or risk paying more out of pocket for my healthcare. I also have to make copays and pay deductibles on most services. But what really galls me is that some pretty basic services aren’t covered at all, including wellness and preventive care.

That’s right. An insurance plan that costs me and my employer more than $1,000 per month doesn’t even pay a little bit for annual checkups (something my doctor requires, since I’m taking prescription medication). As a matter of fact, I’m currently maxing out my allowable amount in the company’s health savings program just to pay for services not covered by the more than $1,000 BCBSND pockets from premiums every month.

Some people say the current healthcare system isn’t broken. I say yes, it is. When a quarter of my family’s income is going to pay for insurance and medical services every month (and we’re a relatively healthy family), there most certainly is something very wrong.

Personally, I like the idea behind Senator Sanders’ plan, though its lack of details is a bit unsettling and its projections are rosy to say the least. But even if the Sanders plan isn’t the right way to go, at least it’s something more than empty rhetoric. It offers real hope to families like mine, who are spending so much on healthcare now that we can’t afford to plan for the future.

In any case, putting money back into working families’ pockets —and back into the economy —makes good sense economically and ethically: something companies like BCBSND seem to be lacking.

Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar...

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