A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

PBS Frontline Series: Sick Around America, Tuesday 9:00 pm

PBS Frontline Series: Sick Around America, Tuesday 9:00 pm

March 30, 2009

Check out the PBS Frontline special, “Sick Around America.” It airs Tuesday, March 31 at 9 PM and will follow individuals & families across the US as they recount their successes and failures with our health care system.

A few people have nothing but positive experiences, such as Mark and Melinda Murray, who happily found that 100% of costs related to a prolonged and complicated pregnancy was covered under Mark’s employee health plan at Microsoft. Others, like Jennifer Thompson of California were dumped by their insurer just when the insurance was needed the most. Georgetown University Professor Karen Pollitz explains that for many people, the current system is “like having an airbag in your car that’s made out of tissue paper: I’m so glad that it’s there, but if I ever get in a crash, it’s not going to protect me.”

Side effects of Massachusetts’ pioneering health reform will also be featured. The program will document the Abramses, a Massachusetts family struggling, to comply with the state’s mandatory health insurance policy since they can’t afford $12,000 a year to purchase private insurance, but make too much to qualify for Commonwealth Care.

The program will also investigate options for national reform and what assumptions and practices must change before any substantial systemic reform. In states unlike Massachusetts, which bans medical underwriting, keeping one's insurance means staying healthy. For those Americans who find health coverage in the private market, there’s no guarantee it will protect them. In 2007, Palm Desert, Calif., realtor Jennifer Thompson received a letter from Blue Cross accepting her for coverage that read: “Congratulations! You have been approved for coverage with Blue Cross of California. ... The immediate value of your coverage is peace of mind.” But then Thompson discovered she had a cancer that required surgery, and three days after leaving the hospital, she received a letter from Blue Cross saying that her insurance was “rescinded,” leaving her uninsured and owing more than $160,000 in medical bills. Blue Cross cited Thompson’s previous history of cancer and results from a recent doctor’s visit as the reasons for the rescission.
Caitlin Outterson