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Personal experience shows that private health insurance companies need more competition

LatinaLista — Over the Labor Day weekend, I traveled to a small Mexican border town called Piedras Negras for a wedding. The town, across the bridge from Eagle Pass, Texas, was the typical Mexican border town — a gazebo in the town square, a maze of streets that twisted and turned down narrow roads with even narrower sidewalks, brightly painted businesses and houses stacked against one another, Mexicans and Americans strolling among the hundreds of shops and bakeries — and more dentist offices than I could count.
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Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Piedras Negras lies among a district that should be known as dentist alley.
In fact, on either side of the historic palatial church that sat in the heart of the historic portion of downtown, and within walking distance of the international border bridge, there were dentist offices lining the sidewalks on either side of the church plus down the side streets.
It’s a safe bet that not all those dentists were for the residents of Piedras Negras. Rather, those dentists were catering to their best customers — Americans!
It’s no secret that hundreds, if not thousands, of senior citizens flock to the US-Mexican border region to take advantage of the low costs of dental and medical procedures, as well as, medicine.
There is stunning proof every day that the current healthcare system is so inadequate for the millions of people who either are on fixed incomes, have no health insurance through their employers or don’t qualify for health insurance due to the infamous pre-existing conditions clause that they routinely travel outside the borders of our country in search of healthcare options or find other alternative methods of healthcare.
Yet, as was recently displayed by the asinine reaction to Obama’s education speech, there is a group that has hijacked the healthcare debate to preserve what currently only benefits a portion of the population — along with, the insurance companies’ profits.
That we allow health insurance companies to render life and death decisions over the well-being of our families is ludicrous. And yet, we are being told that this is a great system.
Given the choice between an entity like the government that is more accountable to the people versus insurance companies which are accountable to their shareholders, the argument that an insurance company is more responsive to anyone’s health needs hardly makes any sense.
The absurdity of that line of thought was brought home to me through my own personal experience with health insurance.

Regardless of what is said in the volatile healthcare debate, the medical profession is a noble field. My own husband aspired to be in it ever since he grew up in the projects to deaf parents and saw how his parents and his neighbors were either turned away from doctor offices because they had no health insurance and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses or received inadequate care because of who they were.
He vowed to go into medicine to help all those who couldn’t afford it. The route to being a physician was too long and costly and so he opted to be a Physician’s Assistant. His first job was with Kaiser Permanente.
At the time, Kaiser was the first HMO in North Texas, where we live. The concept of going to Kaiser’s doctors and their facilities didn’t appeal to everyone who was use to their own doctors but if you were new to town or didn’t have a particular affection for any one doctor, Kaiser was a true convenience.
Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, Kaiser couldn’t convince Texans that HMOs were the best deal for them and so after more than 15 years they closed shop. Admittedly, Kaiser was not perfect and over the years it has been proven that bad management decisions resulted in avoidable deaths and that is what happens when we leave our healthcare decisions to people who are only weighing dollar signs.
After Kaiser closed, my husband worked for several private doctors who each waited several months before putting us on the company health insurance. To cover the gap, we were forced to shop and purchase our own health insurance which never had the high quality of coverage or affordable premiums like an employer-paid insurance.
Yet, just when we thought we could finally join the ranks of insured Americans everywhere, the unthinkable happened. My husband developed a medical condition.
It was one of those conditions that will forever label him as having a “pre-existing condition.” The premiums quoted us to cover his condition was like making a third car payment. With two kids in college at the time and finances tight, the idea of paying such a high fee would have negatively impacted us financially.
So, I went back to the sub-par coverage that covered me and the children and my husband went without. The irony is not lost on us that my husband, who cares for others, isn’t even covered himself.
As someone who routinely reduces office visit fees, treats people for free or generously gives away samples to those who can’t afford insurance or are out of work and have no health insurance, my husband’s situation, and others like him, serve as an example of how much a travesty it is that health insurance isn’t seen in this country as a universal right.
The more I hear these “concerned Americans” spewing anger and hate and not offering solutions at these town hall healthcare meetings and how they think the current system is just dandy, it angers me as it should anger any rational person who understands that achieving affordable and reliable healthcare for all is a worthy process.
There should be a public option and more competition allowed to compete with private insurance companies, and we shouldn’t allow people who want only to derail healthcare reform to hijack the debate and steer it away from those who can actually work to solve the differences.
A lot of the healthcare debate has been over how costly Obama’s healthcare plan will be to cover uninsured Americans, but the plain and simple truth is that everybody deserves the right to healthcare and the peace of mind of knowing that when a loved one gets sick everything that is necessary will be done to get them well.

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