Waiting periods for insurance

A commenter (and some emails) on my last post on the Congressman Andy Harris insurance debacle tried to make the point that what upset the Congressman was the waiting period.  After all, in Rep. Harris’ own words:

“This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed”

If that’s the case, then the Congressman should count himself lucky.  Because according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (emphasis mine):

Seventy-four percent of covered workers face a waiting period before coverage is available. Covered workers in the Northeast are less likely (64%) than workers in other regions to face a waiting period. Covered workers in retail (90%), health care (86%), and agriculture/mining/construction (85%) firms are more likely than workers in other industries to face a waiting period (Exhibit 3.7).

* The average waiting period among covered workers who face a waiting period is 2.2 months (Exhibit 3.7). Thirty-one percent of covered workers face a waiting period of 3 months or more (Exhibit 3.8).

Yes, waiting periods are hard.  Yes, people are exposed and at risk if they are uninsured during them.  When I was a resident, I remember a fellow intern begging the Children’s Hospital emergency department to sew up a laceration for him so that he wouldn’t have to pay another to do it for him, as our insurance didn’t kick in on day one.  So if Congressman Harris has never experienced a waiting period, well good for him.  Most people, if they are lucky enough to have insurance, not only have experienced waiting periods, but the majority of them have experienced much longer periods than he will.

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