It's hard to believe, given my antipathy toward health insurance companies, but yesterday I actually felt warm and fuzzy toward one -- for a few moments.
I've been arguing with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon about its denial of my application to change from an individual Plus plan to the Premier plan. I fell into the dreaded pre-existing condition black hole, even though I'm an unusually healthy 60-year-old guy.
After sending the Regence underwriting department records of my last two physical exams, I got a phone call from a manager. She told me that the denial was being reversed, as the two minor health problems I listed on my application weren't serious.
People in a similar situation, take heart: you can appeal a screwy health insurance company decision and win. It just takes some persistence (two letters and three phone calls, in my case).
The Regence manager was quite pleasant. I found myself saying some quasi-nice things about health insurance companies during our conversation.
"When I browsed through your web site," I told her, "I liked that Regence supports the notion that someone's medical condition shouldn't affect their ability to get health insurance. Hopefully in a few years all this pre-existing condition stuff won't be an issue. But for now I realize that if Regence stopped considering pre-existing conditions, and other companies still did, you'd end up with the sickest people, which would hurt your bottom line."
Talking with a real live health insurance company manager, I realized that she was trying to do the best job she could and wasn't an evil person.
"It's too bad, I said, "that the health care reform debate in this debate has become so angry and hateful. People screaming at congressional representatives at town hall meetings isn't the way toward a better functioning health care system."
On that subject...
I did my share of Vietnam War protesting in the late '60s. Which involved some screaming, I'm pretty sure (can't recall precisely; as they say, "if you can remember the '60s, you weren't there").
Conservatives back in that era were fond of talking about the Silent Majority: the bulk of Americans who were at home raising families and at work making a living -- not out on the streets raising hell at protests.
Now, more than a little strangely, it is the right-wingers who are disrupting meetings with angry shouting, trying to drown out calm, reasoned discourse about an important national problem.
What happened to the acclaim given to the Silent Majority, Republicans? And the disdain given to those who engaged in raucous rage-filled protests?
Here's evidence that the majority of Americans do want health care reform legislation passed by Congress:
Percentage of those polled who believe the current health care system needs major reform: 55%. Percentage of those polled who believe that it is important to pass a major health care reform bill in the next few months: 69%.
Download TIME health care poll
It shows that the United States spends hugely more money on health care per capita than the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or Japan, but our life expectancy at birth is considerably lower.
Pay more. Get less. That's a recipe for major reform.
Of health insurance companies. Of individual lifestyle choices. Of how doctors and hospitals are reimbursed for the services they provide. Of how we determine which health care options are most effective.
I'm hoping that our congressman, Rep. Kurt Schrader, has a town hall meeting in our area this month.
I'm eager to attend, so I could tell any right-wing crazies who try to take over the meeting with a screaming fit, "Hey, you're acting just like we hippies did in the '60s. Welcome, brother. Got any weed?"