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Sun Times Feature Story

Health insurance takes center stage - again!

By Larry Blustein
When the election was held back in November, and the results were not what many had hoped for, many just felt that the impact would not hit locally for quite some time.

But, while local politics pretty much dictate your daily life, the one thing that came out of the race for president was the future of healthcare, and that is something that many of us are being affected by.

As President-elect Donald Trump gets set to be sworn in on Friday, there are many who are worried about high premiums, soaring drugs costs and what will happen if things get out of hand.

On Saturday, while having coffee, overlooking Hollywood Beach, Alex Wood, Cathy Moran and Jane Thomaselli - from Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach - sat down to talk about the very topic that will soon dominate every conversation.

What the three moms worried about the most, was how to maintain the premiums that have gotten out of hand. It has come to a point where many are working just to pay for the insurance.

“This is really something that everyone needs to worry about, Wood said. “We are now faced with paying for health insurance that many of us cannot afford.”

Because the insurance companies are on a much different page than the pharmaceutical businesses, the consumer is getting hammered, and frankly, many cannot keep up with it.

Moran is a cancer patient, and as many who have to take “specialty medication” - the costs continue to rise - and that has put many in a situation where nobody is standing up and speaking out.

“The crazy part of it all,” Moran pointed out, “is the very fact that the drug manufacturers are not on the same page with the insurance companies, and that is indeed a problem for her and the many who are going through the same things.

“We all were kind of forced to get the Obamacare, whether it fit us or not,” Moran said. “To tell you the truth, I am scared about what’s going to happen with a new president calling the shots to make things worse.”

Indeed, even though he was elected primarily because of his business sense and skills, and being able to work out deals, President-elect Trump is not trusted by many, especially those who did not vote for him.

As we are on the eve of his inauguration, President-elect Trump has conveyed that there is a plan in the works to replace Obamacare with a plan that would envision "insurance for everybody.”

Even though Trump did not give specifics about his proposals to replace President Obama's signature health insurance law, the plan was nearly finished and he was ready to unveil it alongside the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress.

“Being 62 and having to worry about coming up with tremendous premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for the many medications I am taking, this all worries me a lot,” said Thomaselli. “I cannot hang on every whim that the new president is throwing at us. This is my life. It’s reality and things are getting less and less affordable.”

As local municipalities search to help lower taxes and make things easier in cities and communities in Northeast Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward, they have no control on health costs.

As we are in perhaps the best region of the country for medicine - with state-of-the-art hospitals, medical centers and elite physicians, it’s tough to boast when you are barely being able to make payments on premiums and finding out that deductibles are wearing all of us down.

The plan, from what all of us are being told, include "lower numbers and much lower deductibles.” Trump boasted that: "We're going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us."

One of the key things that Trump said in the interview over the weekend was that he would target pharmaceutical companies over drug pricing and insist they negotiate directly with the Medicare and Medicaid government health plans for the elderly and poor.

“While everything Mr. Trump is saying is great, what about the millions and millions who have the Obamacare coverage right now,” Eric Brown of Hollywood challenged. “You just can’t all of a sudden switch without a sound backup plan. That would crush a lot of people who bought into the Affordable Care Act.”

Since Obamacare was passed back in 2010, Republicans have called Obamacare federal government overreach and have sought to undermine it in Congress and the courts since it was passed by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

“No matter what the new administration does, it can’t be a lateral move,” Thomaselli pointed out. “Throwing away something without a cost-cutting to the consumers would be a waste of time.”