I keep wanting to write some kind of definitive take on disability and health insurance. Unfortunately, the speed and sheer absurdity of the Trump Administration and Republican Congress' American Health Care Act forces me to slap together more of series of thoughts, and hope they do some good. At the very least, it will do me some good to try.
I will post 4 blogs in all, starting today and winding up on Tuesday. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the AHCA on Thursday.
Part One: 5 Basic Points
1. Most people don't really understand how health insurance works for disabled people. A lot of disabled people don't fully understand either.
2. Health insurance isn't something disabled people choose to buy "in case we get sick." It's something we have to have because we use it all the time, just to survive and function.
3. A subset of disabled people need what's broadly termed Long Term Care, which is everyday direct help to do basic self care, like getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, cooking and eating, etc. Pretty much the only health insurance that covers this over a disabled person's lifetime is Medicaid. Medicare doesn't cover it. Almost no employer-provided or individual market policies over it. Medicaid is the whole ballgame.
4. One way to control the cost of our care is to provide all the care possible in our own homes, rather than nursing homes and other institutions. Again, individual cases vary, but in general, supporting home care is cheaper and it's what most of us want anyway. But you have to be deliberate about doing this ... it won't just happen by lifting regulations and giving everyone theoretical "choices" with insufficient resources. And let's be clear, the savings from switching decisively to home care would be significant, but not revolutionary.
5. Individual cases vary, but overall, disabled people cost more to cover than pretty much everyone else ... sometimes a lot more. And there is almost nothing individual disabled people can do to mitigate this. Market flexibility, financial "skin in the game," and "personal responsibility" have little to no impact on our concrete needs. At best we can trim at the edges with assistive technologies and creative self-care techniques, but frankly, most of us have pushed the envelope on that already.
The point being ... there is really no untested way to save massive amounts of money on disabled people, other than to let us die or become permanent adult wards of overworked, under-resourced families. There is no super-obvious, low-hanging fruit of neglected solutions in this field ... aside from the fore mentioned shift away from nursing homes towards home care. Even that can only save so much. And there's currently basically nobody and nothing in the for-profit or even non-profit private sector that can meet the needs of disabled people without government funds.
There are no miracle cures for most disabilities, and their are no miraculous private-sector fixes to disability policy.