This article appeared on the Crain’s Chicago Business website on November 1, 2016
By: LAURIE R. GLENN
I am the new uninsured.
I am a 58-year-old entrepreneur who, over the past 20 years, had two bouts of breast cancer. Thankfully, I’m now cancer-free. But I’m always wary. Thanks to Obamacare, no insurance company is turning me away because of my pre-existing condition. But I have another problem: If, as reported, my knight in shining armor, Harken Health, pulls out of the Illinois marketplace, I will be, as they say in the parlance, screwed.
Let me be clear. I am proud that President Obama created health care access for 20 million Americans and am hopeful that it has put us on the road to the real solution: single payer. But I am not so hot about becoming collateral damage in the battle to get us there.
Here’s how I got to this unenviable place. My firm, Thinkinc., is a creative Chicago-based public affairs and political consulting firm that delivers strategic planning and positioning, messaging, branding, issue framing, leadership development and educational campaigns, principally to nonprofit organizations. For many years we had a group health insurance plan with Blue Cross & Blue Shield for myself and my employees.
But the marketplace has changed, and my business model changed with it, evolving into a virtual office with a team of consultants who no longer needed a group plan. So I went on the Obamacare exchange and found an individual plan with BCBS. It was not quite comparable, but it was manageable.
Imagine my shock when, after less than a year, I received a letter saying that BCBS was pulling my PPO off the Illinois exchange. IN SIX WEEKS. There were very few options left, but Harken had a quality plan. It didn’t offer dental coverage, and the deductibles were higher. But I learned to live with my new coverage.
In the past few weeks I’ve read that Harken, too, is pulling out of the exchange in Illinois. To date, I have received nothing official regarding any upcoming change in my coverage, which ends Dec. 31.
Now I am really scared. Scared that whichever company is left to cover my health care won’t. I fear that the plans that are left won’t include the major hospital systems in Chicago, and I fear that all of my doctors who have cared for me over the years will not be in the plan. God knows how far I will have to travel and who I will have to see.
Are there solutions? Yes! Recently, in a campaign event in Stone Ridge, Va., Hillary Clinton suggested that we let 55-year-olds, or even 50-year-olds, buy into Medicare. Maybe the insurance industry and/or AARP with the insurance companies could form groups from the ranks of entrepreneurs. Maybe BCBS and all the health insurers that invest in corporate social responsibility in order to demonstrate their “good corporate citizenship” could reinvest that money into providing health care for those of us who have been jilted by them. Instead of talking about being good, they should just do good.
But I’m not the expert. What I do know is that there will be no solutions as long as the Republicans continue to use health care as a political football.
I had the same insurance for 23 years. In the last two years, I’ve had two different plans. I don’t want to fix this by taking health care away from the 20 million people who never had it before and have it now. Let’s start with this. Health care is a human right. Let’s deliver on that promise.
Laurie R. Glenn is president and CEO of Thinkinc.