Has anyone else noticed that over the last couple weeks, the the term “health insurance reform” has started to be used in place of the term “health care reform”? It occurs to me that proponents of wide-reaching reform are counting on the poor perception of the health insurance industry held by many Americans. By renaming the reform, perhaps they believe that more people will support it.
I agree that health insurance does need some reform. Pre-existing conditions is a major issue that needs to be addressed. For people without access to employer-sponsored health insurance, pre-existing conditions can significantly limit the number of policy options available. And in some states (those that don’t have a Cover Colorado-style high risk pool), there aren’t any options at all. Issues like this need to be addressed, and people need to have access to affordable health insurance, regardless of their medical history or job status.
But reforming health insurance without reforming all of the other aspects of our health care system isn’t going to get us far. Making changes to who pays for the care without addressing the underlying cost-driving issues within the care system itself won’t help in the long run. If we still have drug advertising (to consumers and doctors alike), the use of perscription medications will continue to rise (along with the cost burden this places on the health care system). If we still have specialists who are paid twice as much as primary care physicians, we’ll still have a shortage of primary care docs, and too many people going directly to higher-price specialists for care. If we don’t make participation in paying for the health care system mandatory, we’ll still have people who choose to not enroll in coverage, creating an additional burden on those who do.
And the list goes on. There are many aspects of the health care system that need to be addressed if we want to lower costs and provide genuine access to health care for all Americans. Health insurance reform is part of the puzzle, but it’s not synonymous with health care reform.