I caught part of a discussion on the local NPR station on yesterday’s Health Care Summit meeting while doing errands this morning.
One of the discussion panelists succinctly captured my take on the entire health insurance debacle by asking why isn’t there an auto insurance or life insurance crisis in this country? Answer – individuals own those insurance policies and they aren’t part of compensation. A person can change jobs, move to a new state, get divorced and they still have that insurance (provided they pay their premiums on time.)
I’d like to go a bit further with the comparison. When I brought my 2003 Hybrid with 130k miles in for service this week, State Farm did not pay the 282.00 for service. Nor did they pay the 59.00 for renting the Charger so I could continue on my day.
Why should my health insurance pay for a physical? I want my health insurance to pay for a catastrophic event – cancer or trauma. I want my premiums to be set based on my lifestyle – not smoking, keeping a healthy weight. I want a safety net to exist for the chronically ill – which make up a small percentage of our citizens. I’m more than happy to have my taxes sponsor that.
To ask insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions is to ask them to lose money. Insurance companies work on actuarial probability. Catastrophic events are by definition rare – the premiums we pay to insure a dry head on a rainy day are the monies used for those in crisis today.
Note I’m not saying that there aren’t abuses in the insurance companies. They frequently deny claims as a matter of course in the hopes that the customer will walk away. Health care costs are too high and too many unnecessary procedures are taking place. There is room for more preventative care – I believe Kaiser Permanente, a non profit organization, is leading the way. Better nutrition, more exercise, no tobacco products – this would cut health costs across the US population dramatically.
This post will probably piss off everyone – I’d like for most people pay for their own health insurance. I’d like to see the medical and health insurance industries reformed. I’d like to see a safety net created for those who can’t fit the model – and I’d be willing to pay more in taxes to do so.
A few words about Kaiser. They had a bad reputation years ago; I’ve been a customer for 15 years.
I had a serious health crisis in March 2009 and I received world class care and months of treatment thereafter. I paid a total of 300.00 to cover the cost of the ambulance (250.00) and the emergency room visit (50.00). My after care was part of a one-of-a-kind program in Northern California and a handful of programs in the country. I didn’t even have a co-pay.
There are successful models which don’t require 100% government sponsorship or an exclusively for-profit based approach. The degree of complexity surrounding this issue is too sophisticated to the single election cycle and sound-bite producing rhetoric of the US Congress and Senate.