Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama / McCain: Gluten-Free Politics

I rarely allow my Gluten-Free Blog entries to stray from recipes, product reviews, and the like, but with the United States Presidential election tomorrow, I want to present my take (from purely the standpoint of the concerns of a Gluten-Free / Celiac person) on the high-profile race between Barack Obama and John McCain.

If I had to choose just ONE issue that was important to anyone with Coeliac Disease, it would have to be that of Health Insurance and especially being able to obtain health insurance that includes mandatory and guaranteed Preexisting Conditions Coverage. Celiac Disease IS a pre-existing "condition", and one that is known to also increase the likelihood of a variety of other diseases, like Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, Colitis, and others. As such, you can be certain that Insurance companies are fully aware of these correlations, and if you are ever without insurance and then need to obtain it, do not be surprised if you are disqualified or rated as higher-risk (either immediately, or retroactively should anything negative occur with regards to your health).

If you would choose to argue that Celiac Disease would not be considered a pre-exiting condition for health insurance reasons, I recommend watching the PBS "Point Of View (P.O.V.)" episode entitled "Critical Condition" about the state of health-care and health-insurance in America and seeing the insanely long list of "conditions" that insurance companies screen for in order to weed out any excess "risk" (i.e., their need to actually pay) among those applying for insurance. Also, Michael Moore's "Sicko" covers the topic well, though he is a bit more controversial perhaps, and he explores how insurance companies will do nearly anything to find "pre-existing conditions" to deny payment even when you think you are "covered". I would also recommend watching "Sick Around the World" (PBS Frontline) to see how the USA compares to other countries for health care in general (hint: the USA ranking is not good).

Where does that leave me with regards to Senators Obama and McCain? Clearly I have to favor Obama's call for guaranteed health-insurance coverage for pre-existing condiditons. I do not EVER want to find myself in a situation where I think I am "covered" or othewise "insurable", only to find out that instead I have been denied insurance or retroactively denied payment for services rendered, leaving me stuck with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills.

Of course, this has become one of those divisive issues in America, though I do not understand why. We are the only major industrialized country to not offer national health care, and we are not even talking about that... we are just talking of mandating that insurance companies must take *anyone*, and such talk in the USA is enough to set off all sorts of argument in this country. Well, regardless, I would like to know I can always get coverage.

Next, Gluten-Free Product Labeling laws. I really have no idea where either candidate stands on this issue. I know that in the past, Republicans generally stand up for business interests that oppose any further labeling laws, though I do not know that Democrats have done any better at pushing for stricter labeling of allergens (gluten being just one of many). Food allergies are a major problem for a wide range of citizens, and something needs to be done to represent OUR (citizen interests) against any opposition from industry.

I realize there are all sorts of issues here with regards to cost and product liability and all that. As a business owner, I do not want additional regulations imposed on me, and I understand that product labeling laws could be an undue burden for smaller manufacturers especially. So, I do not know what the right answer is. Fact is, it seems that more and more products are improving their Gluten-Free labeling on their own, as companies see this as in their own best interest for marketing.

Perhaps market forces will take care of most of gluten-free product-labeling needs without further government intervention
, but it just seems like we are moving at a snail's pace. I admit: I am anxious and just want to be able to go to the store, pick up ANY food product, and see a clear indication of whether it is GF or not. Any "kick start" from the government (that doesn't hurt businesses) is quite welcome... perhaps just the threat of regulation is enough (as, there is currently some pending gluten-free labeling law stuff in motion).

Well, we will all soon know the outcome of the election. I personally just hope and pray that we (as a country) maintain civility regardless of the election outcome. I can not help being concerned where this country is headed though, as I have personally witnessed some nearly unbelievable hatred and verbal attacks being exchanged during this campaign, with some even being directed at my wife and I when just out for a walk the other day. We had no idea why this stranger started verbal hostilities and aggression toward us (including using his 100 pound snarling rottweiler to intimidate us from 10 feet away - thank god it was leased), at a public park, until after a few paragraphs of ranting about imposing regulations on him and other such seemingly random banter, something about "you and Obama..." came out; at which point I realized the connection... I had worn a jacket that had an Obama sticker on the lapel. wow! Is this what America is coming to?

I can not help thinking that this constant 50-50 split of America (over the past 3 Presidential election cycles) is engineered by those that run this Country in order to distract our focus from all the real challenges we face. All the so-called "wedge issues" have been designed to ensure a 50-50 outcome it seems. It all just reminds me of the professional sports-team mentality where, in the audience, it is "my team" vs. "your team", when in fact the only really "winners" are the few that have orchestrated the competition while collecting their fat paychecks, sweetheart media / endorsement deals, and getting their stadiums or other venues financed and built with public taxpayer funds. In the case of our government, the few that really make out regardless of which "team" wins is anyone that is part of the revolving door between corporations, lobbyist, and our elected officials. Unless you are in that small group of well-connected and well-positioned people, the outcome is always the same: you continue to have the right to pay taxes for these political engineers to do with as they choose.

And, to think, all I want is to be sure I have life-long health-care coverage regardless of the fact I have Celiac Disease. Seems like a simple request, but thanks to political engineering, I fear my hopes for obtaining guaranteed coverage will be lost in that never ending fray of "wedge issues" that have been designed to ensure that we never see any real change. But, I will at least cast a vote for my "team" this year and try to remain encouraged that someone will deliver something I and others with Celiac Disease could certainly benefit from.


Erica said...

I agree with your post pretty much 100%. I just wanted to say that health insurance companies have to use risk management in order to stay in business. It is pretty much their top priority, always. If laws pass so they have to insure everyone, these companies will be in big trouble very quickly. I'm not saying that's a particularly bad thing; it is obvious we need a major change in the system so that everyone is truly covered. But also keep in mind that thousands of people are employed by this industry, and any major change is going to cause major upheaval, and any such change will take many years to accomplish.

Mike Eberhart said...


I do understand the health insurance industry rather well. I understand "risk management" - in fact I have written software for risk management operations before. But, risk management has become evolved into complete risk avoidance, which rather defeats the purpose of insurance. It has allowed Insurance companies to be essentially guaranteed profits by "cherry picking" only those consumers that will have very little chance of needing to actually USE the health-care they purchase.

By way of a national mandate, no any one insurance company will have any advantage over any other. All insurance companies would have to be accepting of the entire population. As such, statistically, there should be an even distribution of "risk" among all insurance companies.

Will profits for insurance companies go down? You bet! Of course... since right now their profits are ensured by that cherry-picking practice. Will insurance companies go under: highly doubtful. Fact is, if everyone can GET insurance (regardless of preexisting condition), there will also be many more paying into the system.

We ALL currently pay for the uninsured or "uninsurable" right now, by way of the fact that medical care providers pass on the cost of care for those without insurance to those with insurance. So, I am lucky and have health insurance now. And, like everyone else with health insurance, we each pay an average of $1000/year in our premiums to cover the increased costs of covering those without insurance (this is a fact: see any of those shows I referenced, and they will reference NIH studies, etc.).

There are not going to be mass layoffs in insurance businesses. In fact, I fully expect employment to go UP if everyone is able to finally get insurance. Fact is, there will be a lot of work processing all those new people.

But, in reality, just guaranteeing or mandating that a person with pre-existing conditions be covered really does not do anything to actually help anyone get covered unless it mandates some sort of price-control too. As such, I really doubt much will come to pass with this, since insurance companies will certainly lobby to prevent any sort of maximum-policy-pricing, and they will likely set pricing at some astronomical level for anyone with significant preexisting conditions, thus preventing people from yet obtaining insurance, and further securing their profits. Time will tell.

Thanks for your input, and enjoy your job within the insurance industry, as I expect it will be there for many many years to come. :)

Gabby The Gluten Free Guru said...

You definitely bring up some very interesting and well thought out points. I too am eager for continued progression in the facilitating of gluten-free items, and living with Celiac disease. Thanks for your post.

Jared said...

My apologies that this is unrleated to the current post, but you may be interested in attending the following event at Whole Foods Market:

Wednesday, November 12th
Gluten-Free Tour
7:00-8:00 p.m.

Whether you suffer from gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease, or you just want to learn about the extensive array of gluten-free products that Whole Foods Market carries, then this is the tour for you! Bakery department team leader Eric will show you the many options for gluten-free cooking and entertaining, as well as yummy sides and desserts to accent your meal. Attendees will sample gluten-free nibbles, and attendees will be sent home with a free goodie bag! Space is limited-registration required. Please call 216-932-3918 or visit customer service before November 11th to reserve your spot. (Tour departs from Café)

If this tour is successful, we hope to offer such learning opportunities on a recurring basis, and perhaps sometime you can participate!



seamaiden said...

Well said. Thank you for posting. I couldn't agree more (or be happier with the outcome.) Best, Sea

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James said...

John McCain and other congressional critics of government waste by his side, President Barack Obama changed another Bush-era policy Wednesday, announcing a plan to change how the government awards private sector contracts.

James Morgan - Puritan Financial Advisor said...

As a business owner, I do not want additional regulations imposed on me, and I understand that product labeling laws could be an undue burden for smaller manufacturers especially.