The real health care debate we should be having, says former Governor of Vermont and former Chair of the DNC Howard Dean, isn’t about how much or how little government should be involved in your health care. In this country, insurers routinely deny health insurance to anyone with a pre-existing condition, and immediately dump the customer when he gets sick, for the sake of the bottom line. The real debate, therefore, is: should we continue with this broken, barbaric system—or should we give Americans the choice of a public health insurance option: the same choice people over 65 have.
While employers are guaranteed the right to purchase health insurance, the great majority of states — which govern the individual insurance marketplace — do not extend the same protection to Americans who buy individual insurance politics. In most states, “insurers can refuse to sell individuals policies based on their health, recreational activities, occupations, credit histories, and a variety of other factors” — and state governments do little to stop them. As a recent Families USA report observed, “[States] are doing very little to provide basic protections for health care consumers and many are turned down from coverage or are charged unaffordable premiums or have their health claims wrongfully denied.”
Insurance companies earn enormous returns for their chairmen and shareholders, becoming successful by insuring only healthy people while rescinding coverage once a person becomes ill.
More than 14 million Americans receive their health coverage on the individual market, but although these patients pay hefty premiums, only a fraction of the dollars are spent on providing actual care. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 29 percent of premium dollars in the individual insurance market go toward administrative costs; the average policyholder spends roughly $300 more on administrative costs each year than if he or she purchased coverage through a group policy.
Meanwhile, medical loss ratios, an indicator of how much revenue insurance companies spend on care versus how much they keep as profits, have dropped precipitously in the last decade. That is, as more and more people have become uninsured or discovered that they don’t have enough insurance to cover their medical expenses, insurers have grown richer.