A certain level of obnoxious research and paperwork comes standard in our busy, modern lives. There’s the occasional driver’s license renewal, the W4 forms at a new job, the mortgage, the retirement account, and, of course, income taxes.
But by a mile, the worst of these annoying indignities is health insurance. Just signing up can be a science project: There’s options to compare, each with different deductibles, premiums, co-pays, and a thousand other terms that all conspire to obfuscate the answer to the only question you really have: Will this thing I’m shelling out big for actually be there if and when I really need it?
If you can sign up and sort out the payments, your task has only begun. Actually getting care means researching who exactly is part of your insurance company’s exclusive club and who has been cast out to the health provider leper colony.
For a patient, who by being sick or injured is already not having a great day, the entire “in network” system is littered with booby traps. Is that test your doctor just ordered covered or not? Is that prescription on the approved list? And if you find yourself taking up residence at an in-network hospital, what assurance you have that every doctor, x-ray tech, and lab worker on location is also in said network? (Answer: none.)
Once you’re on the mend, that’s when the bills start to pile up. You may not even have to pay them, but make not mistake: If a provider so much as gave you an aspirin they will be sure to courteously forward you page after page of incomprehensible word vomit.
Then you change jobs, get married, get divorced, have a kid, lose a spouse, and lucky you: Time to start this process all over again. That chump Sisyphus had it easy.
So why, exactly, do we do this to ourselves? Life is pretty short, when you get right down to it, so why have we set things up so that paying for health care resembles buying a used car in a foreign language (and if you screw it up you die or go bankrupt)? Why must we spend hour after precious hour, which we will never get back, laying siege to a maze of byzantine bureaucracy?
Happily, we don’t actually have to do this, depending on how you vote on Amendment 69 this November. ColoradoCare would create a health care payment system for all Coloradans that works a lot like Medicare. We pay for it through a payroll deduction, just like many of us do already, and then everyone is covered.
We can’t promise a total end to paperwork, but health coverage that stays there no matter what life throws at you will take a big bite out of it. Networks will be huge, just as they are for Medicare patients, because few doctors could afford to say no to our collective business. And ColoradoCare will have every incentive to streamline billing, probably with a simple card-swipe system (that’s great for the doctors, too).
The health care system will still be big and complex – you just won’t have to think about it as much. Just go to work, live your life, and if you get sick, go to the doctor. We lost this simple premise somewhere along the way, but in November, we can take it back.