Health Care: Giving Birth And Covered By Health Insurance? $22,000, Please
Birthing our daughter was so expensive precisely because we were insured, on the individual market. Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy-riddled with holes and exceptions-that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The "maternity" coverage we purchased didn't cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham. And so we spent the first months of her life getting the kind of hospital bills and increasingly aggressive calls from hospital administrators that I once believed were only possible without insurance.
About 63 percent of Americans receive medical care through their employer and nearly 20 percent are uninsured. 16 percent receive some insurance through a federal program like Medicaid or Medicare. The rest of us-between 5 and 7 percent-pay for insurance out of pocket. That's a small share of the total at any one time, yes. But it amounts to at least ten million people (the American Medical Association says it's more like 27 million; that number would be even higher if premiums weren't out of reach for many.) Over the course of our lives, roughly one in four Americans will buy their own health insurance. We're the freelancers, the newly unemployed, the entrepreneurs, the people who are transitioning out of college or grad school or between jobs, or the ones who work for employers with fewer than 20 employees. Our numbers are growing. An estimated 14,000 Americans lose their job-based health insurance every day.
The individual insurance market is like that old joke about the food being terrible and the portions too small; it's expensive, shoddy, and deeply unsatisfying. Those of us who buy into it are not protected by the federal and state laws that govern employer-based health care. In fact, there's no one looking out for us at all.