The BIG Picture: Feeling jerked around by your health insurance provider? You're not alone.

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director

The Democrats' latest healthcare plan will hold down federal red ink for two decades, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate. So the push for change is gaining momentum.

It's probably safe to say that if we were building a healthcare system from scratch, it would look and behave very differently than what we have now. Unfortunately, that option does not exist. So what's to be done? People much smarter than I have been wrestling this question for many years. Their answers run the gamut from “nothing” to a complete overhaul.

I'm hardly in a position to judge which option would work best. So I'll just offer this observation instead: Healthcare, like every other service, comes down to moments of truth. These are the times when service is either delivered in a way that meets expectations, or fails to do so. By this simple standard, the current system clearly has a lot of room for improvement.

By way of personal example, I had a scan done on one of my legs nearly a year ago. The technology was great, the staff was fantastic and the results were positive. End of story, right? Well, actually, no.

Nearly a year later, I am still receiving invoices for the service. When I first called the hospital to inquire about the charge, I was told that my insurer would pay only about a third of the amount. When I followed up with my insurer, they insisted that the contracted amount had been paid, and I need not worry about paying anything more. The hospital said the matter would be passed along to a “review board,” which will presumably decide whether I'm still on the hook for about $1,600. But at this point, I still don't know how the matter will be resolved.

I can't help but wonder how many times each year people who have insurance coverage get this kind of runaround.

My previous run-in with the healthcare system was more than a decade ago, when our daughter was born.

Fortunately, both my wife and I had health insurance coverage at the time. Unfortunately, each company felt it was the other's responsibility to pony up.

That argument might still be raging if both sides hadn't received a less-than-pleasant correspondence from a lawyer friend.

Yes, we do have a remarkably wonderful healthcare system. But all too often, it fails the smell test. Way too many people feel they are being jerked around for no good reason. As long as that sentiment remains strong, demands for a better system will continue.