Opinion

No end to winter blues

Today marks the first day of spring — a time to bask in warmer weather, enjoy longer daylight hours and turn over a new leaf, so to speak.

But with lots of depressing news this week in the benefits world, it definitely feels like we aren’t out of winter and its blues.

Here’s a rundown of the sources of my benefits depression:

Doctor shortage — Haven’t been able to see your doctor lately? Or having trouble finding one? Not surprising. Continuing the ever-growing reports of physician shortages, the National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that 62 million people in the United States don’t have access to a primary care physician.

Of all the problems plaguing our health system — and all the things being done to fix them — I feel like we’re missing the boat on a big one. We don’t have enough doctors. Um, can someone please figure this out? Because having insurance without having access to doctors is just having a really expensive extra card you have to keep in your wallet.

Satisfaction down — Similarly, J.D. Power & Associates reports that health plan satisfaction is down this year — mainly because of concerns over not having enough health coverage. Forty-one percent of existing health plan members said they feel they don’t have enough coverage for routine visits, serious illness or injury, health and wellness programs, routine diagnostics and drug coverage. Increasing health care costs, too, aren’t making anyone happy.

The uninsured ignoring (and confused about) PPACA — PPACA’s main goal is to get the uninsured to enroll in health plans, but it’s really not doing a good job. Bankrate this week reported that more than a third of uninsured Americans say they don’t plan on buying health insurance, despite the law’s requirement to do so. Keep in mind that stat will probably not change, considering the deadline is now just a week and a half away.

(Meanwhile, more than half of people without insurance are still unaware of the March 31 deadline — and 70 percent are unaware of subsidies that could make their policies more affordable. This is so sad I don’t even know what else to say.)

But with satisfaction down — and apparently no doctors to really treat them — can you even blame these folks for not getting insured? Oh, and those prices …

Skyrocketing premiums? — The Hill reported this week that PPACA-related premiums will double in some parts of the country. “The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs,” it reported Wednesday. “The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper Obamacare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.”

The claims came from unnamed insurance insiders after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continued to downplay concerns about rising premiums due to the law.

A lame birthday party — Finally, this week will celebrate — er, mark — the fourth anniversary of Obamacare. Time really flies, doesn’t it?

I wrote about the problems with the law on its second anniversary — and most of what I wrote still holds true two years later: The law’s Republican foes are trying to ruin the celebration with their repeal threats (of course, now we have Dems worrying about the law, too); there are a huge number of uninsureds in the country; Americans overall are unhappy about the law; health care costs are painful for consumers; and the administration still can’t get it together.

And with all the delays the administration is causing, Obamacare is behaving like someone who keeps turning 39, unwilling to admit they're getting older.

I don’t know about you, but to me, spring still is looking far away.

About the Author
Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer

Kathryn Mayer is Managing Editor for Benefits Selling magazine. She can be reached at kmayer@sbmedia.com

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