Today's Los Angeles Times offers a snapshot of U.S. health coverage -- and lack thereof. In essence, while millions are clamoring for insurance, many people who have it (or think they have it) aren't as protected as they believe.
-- Let's start with "discount" health plans. Reporter Duke Helfand writes: "At a time when nearly 7 million Californians are uninsured, state regulators are trying to rein in discount health and dental plans that officials say frequently overstate benefits, offer little if any savings and promise access to doctors who aren't part of the system." Read full story.
(And should you have a similar complaint, here's the website of California's Department of Managed Care. Or you could call 888-466-2219.)
-- Columnist David Lazarus, meanwhile, tackles more traditional coverage, writing of one family's experience with Anthem Blue Cross. He begins:
"The L'Esperances are your typical American family. They work hard. They try to get ahead. They don't ask anyone for help.
"And they pray they don't get sick.
"Mom and Dad -- a.k.a. Laguna Beach residents Jan and Paul L'Esperance -- sell kitchenware on behalf of various manufacturers. They've just been informed by Anthem Blue Cross that premiums for their health insurance will rise 18% to $985 a month.
"That might sound almost reasonable until you understand that Paul, 63, and Jan, 61, each have a $5,000 deductible, meaning that they're on the hook for all healthcare expenses except under the most catastrophic circumstances." Read full column.
-- Nationally, the discussion about the officially uninsured continues. Reporter Peter Nicholas writes from Washington, D.C.: "In a high-stakes bid to revive his healthcare overhaul, President Obama announced during a pre-Super Bowl television interview that he would convene a bipartisan summit in which Republicans and Democrats would try to forge a compromise while a national TV audience watched. Republican leaders indicated they would attend the Feb. 25 gathering, but said they want to start over -- tossing out the measures that passed the Senate and House last year." Read full story.
-- And here's the latest from the L.A. Times editorial series: Rehabilitating Healthcare:
"The House is about to take up healthcare reform again, but not in a meaningful way. Lawmakers are expected to pass a bill this week that would repeal the federal antitrust exemption that insurance companies have enjoyed since 1945 -- a move that makes for little more than a good sound bite. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in both chambers continue to talk about how to make the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate acceptable to enough members of their party in the House to push it to the president's desk. That's a better focus than the antitrust exemption. But if lawmakers hope to revive the more ambitious bill, they have to convince the public that it will slow the growth of healthcare costs without sacrificing quality." Read full editorial.
In light of today's news, some might question the use of the word "quality."
-- Tami Dennis
Photo: Blood is drawn from a patient at a Chicago hospital. Many Americans can't take such tests for granted. Credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press