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Dave Koenig gets private insurance through his employer and couldn't be happier. A conservative, he thinks private health care is the way to go, but he supports some changes to the insurance industry to protect patients from losing their coverage.
Heather Brand/Aurora Select for NPR
Dave Koenig, 49, is happy with his private insurance plan. Still, he worries he could be dropped or lose coverage if he loses his job. For these reasons, he supports some changes to the insurance industry.
Dave Koenig, 49, is happy with his private insurance plan. Still, he worries he could be dropped or lose coverage if he loses his job. For these reasons, he supports some changes to the insurance industry. Heather Brand/Aurora Select for NPR
Tall and with a buzz cut, Koenig, 49, works as a manager for a tech company, Hitachi Data Systems. He lives in a pristine suburb of Sacramento, Calif., with his wife and 8-year-old son. Their backyard has a pool, a foosball table, a shaded hammock, and fruit trees ripe with peaches, pears, oranges, apricots, cherries and plums.
"It's kind of a quiet, pretty expensive neighborhood. Guess we'd probably be considered middle- to upper-class," Koenig says.
Insurance That Does Its Job
And his high-paying job doesn't just mean a nice house. He also gets pretty decent health benefits. It's private insurance through Blue Cross — he pays a monthly premium of about $300 for his family's coverage.
"My current insurance through my company is wonderful. I pay a copay for doctors' visits, I pay a co-pay for prescriptions. Through the six or seven surgeries I've had in the last five years, I've never paid a dime to a hospital, an anesthesiologist, blood work — it's all been covered, so I'm of course very happy with my insurance," he says.
Things weren't always that easy. In the early '90s, he was laid off and went without insurance for several months. He says it was an uncertain time, and he sympathizes with the millions of Americans who don't have coverage — or could be dropped at any time.
"I mean, you hear horror stories about people who have insurance, and then all the sudden get denied coverage down the line because they may have had a pre-existing condition," Koenig says. He, too, worries that he's one step away from being dropped from his plan, or losing his job and not being able to afford coverage.
Supports Changes, Not Overhaul
A look at Americans and health insurance
And that's why Koenig is on board with parts of the big push to change the health care system. But he says the focus should be on regulating the insurance industry, not a government takeover, which he believes President Obama is pushing for.
"I find that scary for me personally, because right now I've got what I feel is great coverage from my company. Tomorrow it could all change, I don't know," he says. "I don't want to see massive overhaul. I can see reform taking place in areas, but do I want the system overhauled? No. And I don't think the majority of the people in the country want it overhauled."
Koenig keeps returning to the fact that in his experience, health insurance has been great. And, he says, in the case of his younger sister, her health insurance paid for the care that saved her life.
Five years ago, his sister Jane was out on a jog when she collapsed and had a heart attack. "She got lucky that some neighborhood women were out for a walk, and they walked by and saw her on the ground gasping for air," Koenig says.
Scared To Lose What They Have
Like him, his sister has good employer-based health insurance — she gets it through her husband, who is a vice president of a credit union.
"She's 46 now. She was 41 when she had her heart attack, and 41 when she had her transplant. They ended up finding a genetic heart defect. She had full coverage, so I guess we didn't even think about it at the time, but thankful for it now."
Koenig and his sister are happy with their health insurance coverage. But Koenig worries that the benefits they enjoy could change under a complete overhaul.