Mental Cobwebs On Health Care

Many of us watched with interest or amusement, take your choice, the so-called summit on health care issues this week.  The comments from all sides did provoke thoughts about the process of changing our laws and the substance of any change.  One could make a pretty good argument that there is really on one issue and that is costs.  You can talk about health care insurance reform all you want but that is the tail on the dog.  It is disingenuous for some to argue about the “obscene” profits of the insurance companies.  One lady talked about how they made over 12 billion dollars in profits last year as though that was a terrible thing to occur.  Would she prefer that they all lose business. 

Health insurance is not any different than all other businesses.  They can only exist or better stated thrive if they provide a good or service that the consuming public needs or wants.  If you started a buggy whip business today with the latest state of the art facilities and machine tools and the highest quality leather it is still likely your business venture would fail because the market doesn’t support any demand for that product.  One hundred years ago virtually no one had health insurance and yet people still went to the doctors and we had hospitals.  Then the companies thought about providing insurance to cover those medical expenses and an industry was born.  Does 12 billion these days really strike you as a particularly huge sum of money?  Just think of the hundreds of billions thrown out the door in Washington every month and the trillions in budget items.  Frankly, I sure want my health insurance company to make a profit.  If they go broke then want good will my policy do me in a time of need?  Goldman Sachs probably paid out more than that in bonuses last year.  Don’t even get started on the billions we wasted on Government Motors or Chrysler for what? 

The premiums charged by the insurance companies and the claims they pay are directly related to the cost YOU incur for your medical treatment.  If the cost of your care was less your premium would be less.  Because of the recent cutbacks in Medicare expenditures my Supplemental policy premium actually went down a little this year from last year.  If and MRI costs $200.00 rather than $1000.00 then that w0uld be reflected in the price you pay for your insurance.  Of course there are lots of folks involved in that chain of events that leads to your MRI and its costs.  There is the manufacturer and all its employees who certainly want the highest wage they can get and the company needs to make a profit to continue with R & D to develop even more wonders to diagnose and treat us.  Then there is the hospital and all its employees who constantly complain that they aren’t paid enough.  The technician who administers the exam sure wants to be paid big time.   Then there are the nurses and doctors who actually deliver the services and evaluation that helps us get better, if that is our fate.   If everything in that whole process were a bit cheaper here and there then your premium would also be cheaper. 

There really aren’t any villains in our health care system.  Each person or company merely wants to make a profit or good salary and there is nothing inherently wrong or evil about those desires.   We do know some things that work to reduce costs.  Improved efficiency is one for sure.   There are plenty of experts around now who offer ideas to dramatically improve our medical delivery efficiency without the need for legislation or an agency or bureaucracy and definitely without new taxes.  We also know from any logical and objective reading of history that competition will lower costs.   There are many ways to enhance competition such as the States entering compacts to allow more companies to do business in their State and granting their citizens the right to buy health insurance from many companies.  Again that requires no dramatic legislative move or additional costs. 

Most importantly we can devise medical accounts for individuals to use for the insurance and even their co-pay or insurance premiums.  Make each of us a real consumer and look for the best bargain and prices.  Give the people an economic incentive to shop and save and they will.  That won’t cost more money either.  Yes, it would reshuffle money in the tax code perhaps but it should be a net wash if designed carefully and modified after a few years experience.  Here the parts are greater than the sum of the parts.  Don’t bunch us all into one great unit controlled from Washington but let us be separate and do our own thing.  The parts will collectively and ultimately make better decisions than the grand pooh bah in Washington.  

The real dispute in the current debate remains one of power.  Some believe that Washington  can and will do the right thing and be more efficient than the market or individuals.  They are true believers that Nanny knows best for y0u.  I suppose some of sincere in that belief.  But sincerity for one is fine unless their sincerity becomes a mandate for me.   Let them do their thing and let me have the freedom to make my own choices and bear the consequences of those choices.  No scarier words exist than “trust me”.  Those folks who want to trust Government, Inc. with their health care worry me because what they are really saying is that you and me should trust them to make the right and most efficacious decisions for us.  I don’t trust them.  Not with my life or my money.

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men”.  Proverbs.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Filed under business, Economics, government, Politics, Socialized Medicine

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