It really rankles me when I see companies – especially insurance companies – put profits before people. Yet two recent articles in The New York Times demonstrates just that. In the first story, insurance companies are raising premiums and deductables yet again. More people have to shell out more out-of-pocket funds before coverage kicks in.
That leads to underuse of care. Checkups, screenings, and some tests are postponed, and many are waiting until they feel really sick before seeking care. This is the type of pattern that got the US health system into trouble in the first place. Oh, and guess what? United Healthcare, Cigna, and other large insurers are reporting record profits and increasing shareholder dividends.
The other article that caught my attention is the case of nursing homes, caregivers, and the Affordable Care Act. The industry is seeking exemptions or waivers from the mandate to provide insurance to the very people that care for the residents. Most nursing home staff make so little money that they cannot afford to join a company’s current plan, or buy coverage on their own. According to the Times’ story, one in four direct care workers is uninsured; among home health care workers, it’s one in three.
The Affordable Care Act requires most businesses, nursing homes included, to either offer plans to their employees at a pro-rated rate, or pay into a pool, or Exchange, where employees could purchase their own insurance. Nursing home operators say they can’t afford to cover their employees – the very people that keep them in business and help the most vulnerable seniors among us. There are ramifications for workers that don’t have coverage. Just like those with higher deductibles, they delay or ignore care until they are really sick or hurt.
In an environment with an already vulnerable population, and one that requires very physical work, that can only lead to negative outcomes for both patients and workers. If Congress agrees to waive fines or allow nursing home operators to delay covering their workers, what kind of precedent is that setting? Who’s next? The fines and deadlines are in place for a reason.
It is unconscionable that anyone in this country is without some type of health care plan; it is mind-boggling that caregivers can’t get care for themselves.