Weighing pros, cons of requiring health insurance

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It's one of the most controversial components President Obama rolled out in his address to Congress, last night. Part of the president's plan would require tens of millions of uninsured Americans to carry basic health insurance, but some say the word "basic" carries a lot of weight.

The president used an analogy to explain his plan saying that as "most states require you to carry auto insurance" so should every American would be required to have health insurance.

We took that theory to someone who handles...both. Katy Heaton with State Farm says if you're licensed to drive in Texas, you're required to have some form of liability insurance because everyone on the road is effected.

"You're liability rating is going to be the same because the state says this car is going to do this much damage because it is this big and bad," said Heaton.

But, she says health insurance is a bit more subjective and personal.

"We'll have to rate if you have cancer, if you have high blood pressure, if you have emphysema, if you're on these medications," explained Heaton. "I mean, it kind of goes on and on."

"Requiring them to have it?" asked Dr. Bennie Webster, with Total Healthcare Center. "What do you do if they don't get it - if they still can't afford to get it?"

Webster says a mandate presents it's challenges, but says it's crucial to make some form of health care available to everyone.

"We see people who are under-insured, uninsured, we take private insurance, medicaid, medicare patients," said Webster. "I think having no plan is not good."

"Having insurance gives you piece of mind," said Art Chance, East Texas Medical Center's VP of Operations.

Officials with ETMC Tyler say one in three of the patients they see are uninsured, resulting in $200,000,000 in uncompensated care each year. Regarding the plan, they say there are too many questions.

"What does basic mean?" asked Chance. "When you have those that choose not to carry it, that's a question. How do you deal with that?"

There's also worries about infrastructure. Hospitals, doctors, and clinics may not be able to meet the immediate needs of people who don't have health care now, who get it and put it to use. But, he's hopeful.

"I have not talked to one person that didn't say there wasn't an opportunity to improve our system," said Chance. "Everything can be improved."

President Obama says there will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage. He also says 95% of small businesses would be exempt from these requirements.

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