Please Politicians, Stop “Helping”

First published on the Wake Up Tucson Blog:

As an insurance broker I am faced with clients every day preparing for and dealing with some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable: loss of their home, injury in a car accident, unexpected medical conditions and many more. My job is to place them into financial products that, while not eliminating their suffering, can at least help them avoid the financial ruin that will make it all the worse. Thus I help people face their fears and manage them… unfortunately I had to face a professional fear this past week and there was no way to manage it or deal with it. Over the course of 5 days, I received two separate calls from clients for whom I could not place coverage, whom I could not help. They were healthy children and I couldn’t provide coverage because of changes made to the health insurance market by the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Due to budget constraints and mismanagement, effective October 1st AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program) made changes to benefits eligibility.  As a result of these changes a friend and client of mine recently received a notification that her two minor children would be losing their coverage. She came to me last week as her agent to discuss options for replacing this insurance.

The second call came from two grandparents. Tragically, their daughter and her husband had died in a car accident several weeks earlier. Because of this they were taking in their 16 year old granddaughter. They called me because they were both in their 70’s and on Medicare, thus they needed an individual policy for the new teenager in their home.

As recently as a few months ago I would have been able to help both of these situations easily with policies that would have cost no more than tens of dollars every month ($30-$60); very reasonable and within reach of a working student and mother as my friend was, and a couple on a fixed income as the grandparents were.

But no longer.

As a result of provisions and mandates in the recent federal healthcare reform no insurance company in the nation is able to offer Child-Only policies anymore. You now must pay for full family coverage. This is a dramatically more expensive product, taking it out of reach of exactly those individuals who would benefit most from Child-Only options.

I was discouraged when the healthcare act was passed because I knew it was putting politician’s choices above those of patients and their doctors.  But that discouragement has now come home for me at my agency.  By the stroke of a pen in Washington DC a client of mine, a hardworking, intelligent, young woman, has been denied coverage for her children that she previously could have easily obtained. Two grandparents already dealing with the shock of losing a daughter and son-in-law, and the adoption of their granddaughter, have there troubles made worse by the elimination of options for protecting her against serious illnesses or injuries.

We must begin to recognize the unintended consequences of our politicians’ mandates and we must see them now while they are clear and not hidden by the fog of time that makes us forget how things worked before they were run by government program, arbitrary rules and labyrinthine bureaucracies.  If government at all levels had just stayed out of these peoples’ decisions, not tried to “help”, they would have coverage today for the children in their care.

Federal and state politicians were false with my friend when they imposed AHCCS, a program that they knew was financial unsustainable, and then promised it would be there to care for her kids.  At least though, there could have been something for her to fall back on from any one of Arizona’s private health insurers and their policies for children… except that the Rulemakers in Washington said they knew better and killed that option too.

When will our citizenry finally realize that we must keep the things that are most important to us OUT of the hands of politicians instead of willingly laying at their feet our most vital and fundamental needs?  Laying them down to the whims, fancies and false promises of those who have no further outlook than, “When’s the next election?”

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