Happy And Insured, Man Has Doubts On Overhaul

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Are You Covered?

A look at Americans and health insurance

Dave Koenig has health insurance through work, and is happy with the plan. But as the health care debate drags on, he says he's losing faith in the overhaul plan. Koenig, who calls himself a conservative, says that at first he was open to President Obama's call to regulate the insurance industry to protect patients. But as lawmakers negotiate behind closed doors, and it's still unclear how much it will cost, Koenig is growing wary of the plan. And he's hoping his health insurance won't change when all is said and done.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The next step for the health care bill is a conference between the House and the Senate. But even as a legislation moves forward, one happily insured Californian says he's losing faith. We first met Dave Koenig back in September. He's part of our serious, Are You Covered, about people's personal experiences with health insurance. Koenig talks about wanting more regulation of the insurance industry to protect patients and bring down health care costs. Now he's growing weary of the debate.

Kelley Weiss of Capital Public Radio checked back in with him.

KELLEY WEISS: Koenig is a manager for a tech company, Hitachi Data Systems. He works out of his house in an upscale suburb of Sacramento. He's been following the health care debate closely.

Mr. DAVE KOENIG (Manager, Hitachi Data Systems): Throughout the day or in the morning before I start work or after work, I'll go out and look at a number of different Web sites that...

WEISS: Koenig says he'll go to CNN, FOX News and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank site. He points out a post on Fox's Web site. Fox titles it The Most Outrageous Remarks in the Health Care Debate.

Mr. KOENIG: Sarah Palin keeps on talking about death panels. And then we got people, you know, Congressman Grayson down in Florida saying that Republicans want Americans to die quickly.

WEISS: Koenig laughs off these comments, but then he's serious. He says he's a conservative and is satisfied with his private insurance through his job. Still, at first he was pretty much behind President Obama's push to overhaul the health care system. He says the president was on track about controlling health care's sky-rocketing cost. But now Koenig's not so sure.

Mr. KOENIG: The more that I am hearing about what they're proposing now, the more I'm against these bills, because none of the bills, I think, address the things that we need to address and we could work on right now.

WEISS: Like significant tort reform to protect doctors from unfounded malpractice suits, he says. And changes that would allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. And then there's one thing that really works him up.

Mr. KOENIG: Everyone talks about the waste in the health care system right now. If we have waste in these programs, why aren't we taking care of that waste right now?

WEISS: Koenig says the health care debate is also personal for him.

Mr. KOENIG: You know, there's a couple of things out there that are being discussed or aren't being discussed that really drastically affect my family.

WEISS: About three months ago, Koenig told me about his sister Jane, who had a heart transplant five years ago. She had good health insurance through her husband's job, but that's changed.

Mr. KOENIG: The month after we did the last interview, my brother-in-law lost his job.

WEISS: His brother-in-law, Greg, was the vice president at a credit union. Koenig says Greg just got a new job, but he says it's not clear what will happen with sister's health insurance.

Mr. KOENIG: She's probably, even with a new heart, healthier than most people out there. She might not be able to get covered. That's still being debated, I think, right now with his new company and what kind of coverage they're going to get and whether - I'm sure he's going to be paying a lot of money for that plan.

WEISS: Koenig believes protection for people like his sister who have preexisting conditions should be addressed. But he's concerned that the overhaul changes to the health care system being debated right now will cost Americans too much.

For NPR News, I'm Kelley Weiss in Sacramento.

NORRIS: And since Kelley Weiss last saw Dave Koenig, he's had some good news. He tells us his sister Jane will get health insurance through her husband's job. Our series Are You Covered is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, that's a nonprofit news service.

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