I have a friend who's working in D.C. on health care reform, and she added some context to that "people are happy with the insurance they have" claim that's bandied about. She says their focus groups show that when people say that, they mean they don't want to have to fill out a lot of paperwork the way their parents have to do with Medicare - ever since the pharmaceutical companies took control a few years ago. (As someone who's watched her mother struggle with the Plan D paperwork, I know exactly what they mean.)
They're saying given a choice between what they already have and know, and some unknown plan that requires a lot of paperwork, they'll stick with the devil they know. It means they want a simple, easy-to-use benefit - in other words, single payer. It certainly doesn't mean they're "happy" with their insurance, as this exchange from yesterday shows (h/t DC Blogger):
Steve McArthur is a management consultant.
That means he has to buy his own insurance, a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy that costs him $584 a month and carries a $10,000 deductible.
On Tuesday morning, he listened for a long time as Missoulians discussed health care reform at a listening session at St. Patrick Hospital sponsored by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
The hearing ranged broadly over the possibilities for reform, but what clearly resonated for McArthur was something Baucus' chief of staff, Jon Selib, said a couple of times.
Discussing why a single-payer system of health insurance wasn't viable, Selib made reference to the more than 150 million Americans who are covered by some sort of employer-provided health care.
“A lot of people like that,” Selib said.
When the time came for questions, McArthur stood up and asked a simple question. Looking across a standing-room-only crowd of about 275, he asked how many were happy with their employer-based health insurance.
Less than 10 people raised their hands.
“The number is bogus,” McArthur said. “It's not working for 95 percent of us.”
McArthur drew resounding applause.
In fact, any mention of single-payer health care insurance brought raucous cheers and clapping. Any other solution to health care reform - including Baucus' “balanced” plan that would create a mix of public and private plans - was received more coolly.
Tuesday's session was one of a handful of events Baucus is sponsoring around the state this week. He chairs the Senate's powerful Finance Committee, and is the point man on health care reform.
He did not attend Tuesday's meeting, but Selib did, and he heard what the senator himself has heard since he announced that single-payer wasn't really on the table.
As Selib worked to massage that point, one man barked out, “Oh bull----.” Tom Roberts, president of the Western Montana Clinic and moderator at the session, asked the crowd to be civil, but the man had made his point.
I wonder what Max Baucus means by health care "reform." (Personally, I think forcing people to buy private insurance they can't afford during a global economic crisis is a stunningly awesome plan - but I'm a little twisted that way.)