Superman's shattering riding injury is one of the saddest healthcare stories of the decade.
That doesn't mean, however, that you and I need to (financially) share his pain.
Christopher Reeve, the actor who gained fame playing the Man of Steel on the silver screen, is paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from a horse at a competition in Virginia last May. Reeve, an accomplished equestrian, was wearing his helmet at the time of the freak fall. Now, his courageous battle to overcome the disability is earning him more fanfare and a new cause: healthcare reform.
Reeve has focused his attention of late on legislation that would ban insurance companies from setting lifetime benefit caps at less than $10 million. Current coverage for most insurance is in the $1 million range, and Reeve's policy for catastrophic injuries contains a $1.2 million cap.
The problem is the first-class medical care he's receiving costs about $400,000 a year. He and others undergoing extensive rehabilitation face the prospect of economic ruin at a time when their physical and mental health are most fragile.
It is indeed a tragedy, and those seeking a greater governmental role in healthcare want Uncle Sam to ease the burden. But in this time of federal budget balancing and medical cost containment, the timing stinks.
Moreover, Reeve's efforts could hamper passage of a bipartisan bill that would make sensible incremental changes in health insurance. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), would curb the ability of health insurers and employers to deny coverage to workers who change jobs or have pre-existing conditions.
Reeve is backing a proposed amendment to that bill sponsored by Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) that would raise the lifetime benefit cap to a minimum $10 million. This noble move naturally has drawn the ire of insurer and employer groups concerned about the cost of such generosity.
Providers mostly have stayed on the sidelines on the Jeffords amendment. They'd like to have more guaranteed payment on costly cases but realize the impact the Jeffords amendment might create. More significantly, it could derail the modest, but important, Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation.
Let's remember the basics of insurance. Money is collected from a group of people and then paid out in times of need. Rules, regulations, copayments, deductibles and limits help keep a group plan solvent. Additional costs for any type of coverage always are passed on to the buyer.
Reeve would like "the group" to pay more for his and thousands of others who have suffered horrible accidents or chronic illness. A million dollars may not go far these days, but before the federal government starts messing around with a tenfold payment cap increase, we need more information on the costs. We also shouldn't let our admiration for Reeve thwart the advancement of more basic improvements in healthcare financing.
The Kassebaum-Kennedy bill will not be voted on until after April 15. That should give both sides enough time to adequately assess Jeffords' proposal and explore options to the $10 million minimum cap and who should pay for the extended coverage.
At first blush, MODERN HEALTHCARE's leap into cyberspace is proving enlighteningly successful.
The World Wide Web page was introduced Jan. 28 and has since been visited by an average of about 750 users per week. The typical reader browses about four of our eight destination pages. Inlet, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company that "hosts" the MODERN HEALTHCARE*Web site, tells us the activity is extremely high.
And we've already won two achievement awards without even knowing we were under consideration. The Six Senses Healthcare and Medical Web Site Review Program has awarded MODERN HEALTHCARE*its seal of approval. A Six Senses team of healthcare marketing and medical professionals reviewed the site and cited our exceptional design and content.
Meanwhile, NBNSOFT Corp. of Bellingham, Wash., said our site's "outstanding source of content" was the reason for inclusion in its content awards page.
But the page that holds the most interest to the editorial staff is called Tell MODERN HEALTHCARE.
This is e-mail at its best, allowing our readers to communicate with the 28 reporters and editors who put out the magazine. So far, the Web page has netted us a few solid story ideas and even produced a scoop on a hospital merger.
That's the kind of synergy we anticipated. MODERN HEALTHCARE*has a proud history stretching back to 1913. We've evolved into a weekly news magazine that spots trends and breaks stories. We remain committed to the printed product but are eager to experiment with new information technologies.
Check it out.
A few words of advice if you are considering Tell MODERN HEALTHCARE:
Don't send standard press releases via e-mail. The fax and mail adequately serve that need.
We will accept anonymous tips but strongly prefer you identify yourself.
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