Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

It has been fascinating to watch the president’s dogged determination to push his healthcare legislation. He’s wed himself to a bit of policy that he hopes will be his legacy, for better or worse. He has been unable to strongarm many of his more socialized ideas and philosophies through Congress, and has chosen this to be the crowning point of his administration.

But, now that the health exchanges have rolled out, there have been some interesting developments. President Obama may get his healthcare legacy after all, but not in the way he expected.

As we all know, healthcare.gov is open. Well, at least technically. Despite three years to develop and perfect a website that should allow people with little knowledge of health insurance to shop and compare plans before purchasing one, the website just…hasn’t. It seems as though if you try to do anything straightforward through the website, you simply cannot.

That is not to say that people are unable to get insurance. In trying to ascertain more specifics about how the Affordable Care Act will alter the face of healthcare in Louisiana, I came across an interesting bit of information. One company in New Orleans that specializes in plans for low-wage uninsured individuals working in fast food and hospitality reported that their business is booming. Their premiums for those they are targeting come in lower than those reported for the same income bracket on the exchange. Also, since they are customized for a certain sector of the industry, they presumably have better information to custom tailor an appropriate coverage plan.

Some of this new business probably comes from people unable to log onto the exchange, getting fed up, and seeking a plan elsewhere. Others probably saw the prices that were available to them, and decided to do their homework. Either way, this is revealing a new trend: now that people must get healthcare somewhere, they are taking power over their insurance and hitting the market. And not just the Healthcare.gov marketplace, instead they are actively shopping around to find something that best suits their needs.

Could this indicate the beginning of a shift in philosophy as regards healthcare? Rather than most healthcare being provided through employment, and those that don’t get such benefits often doing without, could this indicate people may begin to take personal responsibility for covering themselves? Certainly at this moment it is mandatory that they seek some form of health insurance. However, if too many people seek programs outside the Obamacare exchange, the program will go broke. If that happens, what will happen to all of those newly-covered individuals? All it really takes is one broken leg or appendicitis to see the benefits of being insured.

Somewhat hilariously, this is in a sense working against the socialized health program that President Obama espouses. Rather than setting the stage to transform the healthcare system ultimately into a single all-encompassing federal plan, in mandating that everyone must have some form of coverage, he could instead increase awareness as well as a desire to seize active responsibility, which is something that rings true for many Americans anyway.

In coming decades, perhaps having carefully customized individual health care will become the norm. What coverage fits your lifestyle? Are you a young person with no chronic conditions that really only needs a basic plan for regular checkups and catastrophic contingencies? What’s your industry? Are you sitting at a desk all day, or do you have a more dangerous role, such as working in scaffolding on skyscrapers? Do you have plentiful access to doctors and hospitals, or do you live in an isolated community in rural America or in the mountains with only one doctor in close proximity?

Of course, this is all conjecture and “What if?” on my part, but if this shift in approach does occur, and people are actively engaged in curating their health insurance, it will ultimately be to the credit of Mr. Obama. Likely it would be seen as a positive development, and he will go down in history as the President that sparked this healthcare revolution…

Entirely by accident. But isn’t that how most great discoveries start?

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