I’ve been researching some complex medical regulations in the past weeks, and I uncovered what to me, is a disturbing fact. Deeply embedded in ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) I found that our federal government addressed the serious (and sometimes deadly) failings of corporate insurance coverage a full FOURTEEN years before it got around to making those same fixes for the “rest” of the American population.
Parallels Between ERISA/HIPAA of 1996 and ACA of 2010
For example, you are probably aware that the ACA (Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare) prohibits the denial of health insurance based on pre-existing conditions. Well, in 1996, the HIPAA amendment to ERISA imposed this prohibition on all corporate-provided insurance (group policies). Basically, if you were lucky enough to work for a corporation between 1996 and 2010 (the year ACA was enacted), you could not be denied medical coverage (even if you changed coporate jobs, as long as you went from one corporation to another). But if you were unlucky enough to be an independent contractor, work for a small business, or be self-employed, you would not be able to secure affordable medical insurance if you had a pre-existing condition. You were out of luck.
There were many other examples of provisions that were part of the corporate regulations of HIPAA that would be enacted as part of the ACA, almost verbatim.
What Took the Government So Long?
Now, given that a full 72% of Americans do work for a corporation (or similar entity), the 1996 regulation was helpful to the majority of the workforce. But what about the other 28%? That is not a number to sneeze at. Recent (pre-ACA) estimations put the uninsured American population at appx. 45million, and that didn’t count those who had insurance that was basically useless, with huge deductibles and co-pays. Probably around 65 MILLION* Americans were at risk for ill health and early death because their government was quick to address corporate interests but slow to address the failing American medical system as a whole.
What to Consider
The point to ponder here is this – is our society so corporate-driven that the government, which is meant to represent ALL Americans, is addressing corporate needs/interests decades before addressing the American population as a whole?
*my estimate, using 2013 U.S. Census data