On the Health Care Crisis
I interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a post on the health care crisis.
Also, I have to apologize for being AWOL lately. I’ve had a lot of potential posts running through my mind–the majority of which I’ve decided are thoughts best kept to myself. So it’s been hard to find something to write about.
However, this morning a good friend and former professor had this message posted as his Facebook status update:
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.
I went ahead and re-posted it, because it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment, but made the following disclaimer immediately afterwards:
I agree, but I believe the solution for 95% of the population is for each person to carry their own private, high-deductible health insurance plan.
I’d like to expand on this, because it’s critical.
Is there a health care crisis in America? Yes. Are insurance companies often unscrupulous and difficult to work with? Yes. Do we need to do something to fix it? Absolutely.
But a federal mandate to buy a product that is the cause of much of the cost inflation and corruption in the healthcare industry is not a viable solution. It won’t work.
While I agree that access to quality health care is a fundamental human right, the American people have fundamentally misunderstood what insurance is and what it’s supposed to do. We have conflated the health care with health insurance.
Friends, insurance is NOT health care.
After doing considerable research on the topic, here is a common-sense proposal that I believe will solve a good portion of the health care problems facing America.
1. Health insurance should NOT be a workplace benefit, but an INDIVIDUAL responsibility. Too many people are glued to jobs they hate because the benefits are “too good to leave.” Like life, auto, or disability insurance, people should carry their own private, portable policies–allowing them freedom to work when and where they want. This will also be a MAJOR cost-cutter for employers and business owners, the savings from which they can reinvest back into higher salaries and marketing to grow their businesses, create more jobs and fuel the economy.
2. Most individuals should carry low-premium, high-deductible insurance plans. The private policy Lanny and I carry costs us $150 a month for our entire family. We have a $7,500 deductible. Routine office visits like check-ups and regular sicknesses require a $25 co-pay, and generic prescriptions are covered at $10 a piece (though thanks to Wal-Mart, we can get them as low as $5–NO POLICY REQUIRED [thank you, free market]). All other medical expenses we pay for entirely out of our own pockets.
This is a tremendous benefit to us AND society. Why? We have PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY for our use of the system. We don’t go running to the ER for every skinned knee…we have an incentive to practice personal wellness and preventative care…and we ask more questions in the doctor’s office: “What will that cost? Why? What are the benefits vs. the risks?” It makes us more responsible, ethical, informed health care consumers.
Look, $7,500 is a lot of money for people like us. If one of us were to get sick or suffer a major injury and max out the deductible, it would be a burden. But hospitals are generally very willing to work with you on payment options…and $7,500 is NOT going to ruin us–or ANYONE above the poverty line.
Remember: insurance exists to MITIGATE risk…NOT provide “free” benefits. There is no such thing as free, nor should there be, in health care or anything else. What the vast majority of average, healthy people need is protection against financial ruin in the case of a medical emergency, and a clear incentive for personal responsibility and accountability for their own wellness. Affordable, high deductible plans like the one we carry, do this.
3. There should be protections in place for the exceptions: the extremely impoverished, children, and the critically ill.
This is where there might be room for government intervention (I’d prefer a private solution–or at least a private-government hybrid solution because I generally distrust the government with complex things, but okay). People who are ill enough that they pose too high a risk for traditional insurance, who are too poor to pay for the premiums or deal with high deductibles, and children of parents in this situation, do need special protection and there should be programs in place to provide it.
PLEASE NOTE, however, that by “extremely impoverished” I mean extremely impoverished. Premiums for the kind of plan I’ve been discussing run anywhere from $40-$100 a person, depending on your age and other health factors. Most people spend much more than that each month on satellite TV, high-speed Internet, cell phones, Netflix subscriptions, trips to Starbucks, movie tickets, iTunes purchases, eating out, etc. If you have to cut back on some of your luxuries in order to be responsible for your health, so be it.
It’s called being an adult.
I do it. Other people do it. You can do it, too.
Once people start paying for medical expenses DIRECTLY, and dealing with insurance companies DIRECTLY, just watch as medical costs, insurance hassles, and even premiums “magically” decrease.
That’s because consumers will be much more interested and involved in what’s going on with their health care: “Are you really going to charge me $25 for that single dose of Ibuprofen? No thank you, I’ll buy 50 pills myself from Walgreen’s for $4.”
Doctors, hospitals, and private practices will be forced to innovate and market–like the rest of us. They’ll have to come up with good reasons for consumers to pick them instead of their competitors. They’ll save literally BILLIONS of dollars a year on insurance paperwork, claims, and insurance hassles, cutting costs overall.
In conclusion, I’d encourage you to watch this 20/20 special with John Stossel. Definitely major food for thought and well worth your time.
I’d love to get your feedback on my ideas. Please leave your comments below!
Posted on September 3, 2009, in News and Current Events and tagged 20/20, coverage, government, health care, insurance, john stossel, obamacare, private practice, small government. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.