Last night, I took my health insurance broker out for a steak dinner with all the trimmings, including a bottle of wine, at a restaurant that was, well, not cheap in Beverly Hills. You see, before he became my insurance broker, he was just a friend, a fellow graduate of America’s finest liberal arts’ college and an all-around nice guy.
A few months ago, upset that the premiums on my HMO had skyrocketed (I was paying almost $6,000 a year for health insurance), I asked him if he could get me a cheaper plan which gave me more choices. And perhaps as a bit of rhetorical flourish, I offered to buy him a dinner worth the cost of the difference in my monthly premium.
And I’m a man of my word.
He helped me navigate through the complexity of the many competing plans to find one more appropriate for a healthy guy like myself than the one I had purchased without fully knowing the choices available to me. (In a later post, if there’s interest, I can explain how I got stuck in the high-paying HMO.)
Thanks to his knowledge of the industry (far greater than my own), I was able to make an informed choice, taking a different plan with different benefits at a different carrier at a much lower price (the full cost of the dinner for both of us, including tip,was roughly equivalent to my monthly savings).
Up until recently, I simply did not know the choices available to the average American. From my conversations with others, I gather they are as much in the dark as I once was. Based on what I read in the press, I had simply assumed it would be difficult for me, as an individual, to get health care coverage.
What is needed in the current debate is what I needed in my search for a better plan more appropriate to my needs: better information. Those who need to find coverage on their own should seek out health insurance brokers (if you live in Southern California, I can recommend a good one); they’d be surprised at the choices available to them.
And those in Washington who wish to “fix” a “broken” system should strive to build on the strengths of the current one–and act to increase those choices. For the more competition there is among those choices, the cheaper will be our coverage and the better opportunity each one of us will have to find the plan most appropriate to his needs.
It won’t cost you a steak dinner.