We all recall the play “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare where the new emperor is warned by a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March”. Whether that occurred or not is historical debate, but we all know the outcome: Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the forum of Rome on the 15th of March per the soothsayer’s prediction. That phrase has become a call to arms ever since.
I am constantly dismayed at the lack of leadership, ownership and progress by our elected officials on health care reform. Of course, alternatives to Obamacare are complicated and have many downstream effects. Eliminating the mandate will cause many healthy people not to enroll. Eliminating the subsidies would do the same. The incidence of chronic diseases increases as our population ages. Health care costs continue to skyrocket upward unabated. Yet despite having the highest per capita health care costs, our outcomes are far from the best. Additionally, health care comprises approximately 18% of our total GNP. Any major changes to that sector could have huge effects on our economy. There are no easy solutions to this crisis!!
So, despite the frustration, I do appreciate the complexities in health care. And I do appreciate how difficult the appropriate changes could be. But it is clear something needs to be done.
But now I hear a voice of a soothsayer in the dark, “Beware the Ides”, but in this case, “Beware the Ides of October”. What does that mean? What am I hearing?
Typically, it is the middle of October when the following year’s health care rates are posted for open enrollments in plans across the country. Remember last fall, mid-October to be exact, when the health care insurance premium rates for 2017 were announced. There was general outrage at the huge increases, up to 50% in some markets. It sparked republican battle cries to immediately “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and had an instrumental effect on the elections in November.
But somehow, we Americans sucked up those increases. After all, that was the new normal and we accepted it. Painfully. And the response from Washington, despite a Republican President, Senate and House…. Stalemate. Nothing!
Hence cometh the soothsayer. “Beware the Ides of October”.
What is going to happen this October when the rates for 2018 are announced if nothing changes in Congress between now and then?
Two things are becoming apparent on a national level. The first is that health care premium rates will continue to increase, and undoubtedly in double-digit proportions for most markets. Second, there will be fewer insurance players on the health exchanges. Bottom line, the consumer will have higher prices and fewer choices. If we saw bedlam last year, what are we going to see this year?
Well, we have been forewarned.
There could be trouble in the forum of Health Care.
To our elected officials, please get your act together. Do what we elected you to do. We still have time. Respect that voice.
Don’t give me a reason to title a follow up article later this year: “Et tu, Brute!”