Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Angela Bofill and health insurance

A Filipina lawyer-friend based in NYC posted in her facebook status, that "Angela Bofill, a beloved singer of Filipino romantics, suffered a stroke in 2006 and 2007 that left her in a nursing home and rehabilitation center for over two years. She was just recently released from the Vallejo rehab center in December 2009. It is sad to note that for someone with such musical talent and hits, she was without medical insurance and relied on fans and friends for assistance. This puts a face on the need for universal health care in the U.S."

My friend added that in the US, "to get good medical coverage, you have to be an indigent to qualify for Medicaid or have a good-paying job to pay for high premiums. Those who are just eking out a modest living or lose union-employer health coverage or part-timers or self-employed really get the brunt. It's deplorable."

My first reaction was that Angela was rich before, she sold many albums and performed lots of big concerts, including a few concerts in Manila. And yet she didn't get a private health insurance then. Well, some problems in handling personal finance, perhaps.

But I am wondering why many middle class families in the US cannot get private health insurance to augment whatever is offered by government health insurance. I think it's a lousy situation.

Here in the Philippines, somehow there's good competition among private health insurance, that many ordinary employees have private health card on top of being PhilHealth member. The latter is mandatory and obligatory. So if one gets hospitalized, he/she has 2 insurance to cover the bill.

My friend added that "$300 to $500 a month becomes a big deal for those starting anew. Medicaid and Medicare insurance is quite limited and once the cap is met, then the "ill" is left with a humongous bill he/she could not pay without his/her assets being attached."

That's a big amount, $300 to $500 a month. If there is competition among various health insurance firms, there will be market segmentation and product differentiation to cater to various clients with varying health needs and budget. Thus, in a competitive environment, it is possible to get a private health card for $50 a month for a limited health coverage, to as high as several thousand dollars a month for unlimited coverage.

The point is to give options to the poor and lower middle class households. Lower premium for lower coverage, at least there is some health insurance. Then government health program can be an add-on. This will make things more bearable for the poor.

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