The politics of health insurance continues to plague the Obama administration as the November mid-term elections draw ever nearer. After several months of U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticizing insurers for rate increases — even to the point of calling them to the White House for “talks” — more or less the federal equivalent of being called to the principal’s office — the administration frankly needs the help of the very companies whose business activities they are seeking to curtail and to regulate.
Basically Sebelius (and by extension the president) needs insurers to make medical coverage more widely available to patients between now and 2014 when the health care reforms will actually take effect. If a more cooperative relationship can be cultivated between the government and the insurance industry, system reform will proceed more smoothly and the Democrats will have more successes to sell their agenda to voters in November and when Obama seeks re-election.
Sebelius has described the goal between now and 2014 as an effort to “stabilize the private sector to not only encourage those who have insurance today to keep it, but to hopefully bring additional folks back into the market.” That means working with companies that vigorously fought the health care law — WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, and Aetna among others.
What is a political problem for the administration is a public relations one for the insurance industry, which has long occupied the role of arch villain in the eyes of many Americans. In 2014 citizens will be required to carry health insurance the way they currently have automotive coverage. Companies with a reputation for fair play and who bundle that with affordable and comprehensive coverage are going to get more business as more Americans are compelled to carry policies.
Now, more than ever, do not let your insurance coverage go unexamined for months or years on end. Pay attention to your insurer’s role in the changing face of insurance in the United States. Better rates and better benefits are — if all goes as planned — ahead for us all. There are existing ways to save on health care costs and there will be more. Be an active monitor of your own coverage. Now, not later.