Waste means that many go without
August 3, 2001 | Page 4
Dear Socialist Worker,
Until recently, I was employed as a health insurance benefits administrator for a small local restaurant chain. Health insurance was only made available to management and corporate employees and not to hourly workers, which is, in itself, a grave injustice.
But there's another problem that plagues the U.S. health care system--red tape. In 1996, Congress passed a reform called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This bill allows workers that leave their jobs to extend their health insurance coverage for up to 18 months until they can find other jobs.
Undoubtedly, this reform has helped many people, but it's also deeply flawed. COBRA forces workers who lose their jobs to pay their total insurance premium if they want coverage--a monthly expense that generally adds up to hundreds of dollars.
My monthly insurance costs would have tripled if I had taken advantage of this "benefit." That's hard enough to handle when you're working, much less when you are unemployed. In addition, the paperwork created by COBRA is immense.
The law is so confusing that every company offering health insurance must have a lawyer to decipher it and a team of employees to administer it. In fact, a whole new industry has emerged whose sole purpose is to comply with COBRA laws.
Providing insurance to the insurance companies is a huge waste of time, money and resources. Imagine if we spent all of that money on treating people instead of on paperwork to protect HMOs from lawsuits.
Rather than increasing workers' health insurance premiums to pay for needless red tape, we should have universal health care that isn't tied to employment.
Kyla Klein, Chicago