Flo Knows

Have you ever noticed that you can see something a number of times before you really see it? I had an experience like that the other day. A commercial came on for Progressive Insurance. It’s the fairly scary one in which some nice folks are driving their car, when suddenly people start clinging to the outside of it, including the windshield.

Those people, according to the commercial, are “rate-suckers,” because they make insurance rates go up. But, if you use Progressive’s gizmo that plugs into your car’s dashboard, and if you drive sanely, you’ll earn lower rates. In other words, actuaries have determined that how you behave can affect your potential risk of having an accident, and using that insurance.

Simple enough. But wait! The founder of Progressive Insurance didn’t choose that name by accident. I’ve read that he is a true “progressive,” and a big supporter of our president.

So, keeping with the premises of the Affordable Care Act, Progressive Insurance should require that everybody have the same coverage at the same cost, irrespective of driving history, arrests, or other behaviors.

Okay, I admit that that’s a stretch, but the point remains that just as the “rate-suckers” in the commercial cause rates to go higher, people with higher health risks, like pre-existing conditions, smoking, obesity, family histories, drug use, etc., also cause higher rates, if we’re lumped in together with them.

I went to an informational talk by an insurance agent last week. He explained much about the Affordable Care Act that I hadn’t heard before. For instance, all qualified insurance plans must cover things like pediatric dental care and eyeglasses. Plans must cover maternity. Plans must also not take into account pre-existing conditions or medical history.

So, if I were a 60 year-old man with no particular medical problems, I’d still be required to buy a policy that covers maternity, and pediatric dental and eye care, along with many other things I wouldn’t need.

In other words, the price I pay has little to do with my needs or my health risks, but more to do with the “common good” for people who may need those services.

To be clear, I agree with the insurance agent who said that the pre-existing conditions problem has to be resolved. Wisconsin has had a plan for such people, and I’m sure other states do too, but I’m guessing that much more help is needed for people who have been uninsurable. I’m not sure the ACA approach is what I would have taken, however.

It’s also true that a person can choose not to drive a car, but we can’t choose not to have a body that will eventually need care – some of it pretty expensive. So, the comparison isn’t entirely fair, but the math is inescapable. I’m not that good at math, but the folks at Progressive Insurance are, so let’s not pretend to be surprised at how much our rates for health insurance are going to go up. Just ask Flo.

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