New Ideas on Healthcare Reform

On Sunday April 4, 2004 Ted Halstead appeared on CSPAN’s Book TV speaking about a book he edited called The Real State of the Union. He brought up some new ideas on how to fix a range of America’s problems that go beyond the ideas brought up by the left and the right. His ideas regarding our health care system were particularly interesting and creative. Here are some of the ideas that Halstead spoke about:

• We must dislodge health insurance from employment. If you were told that if you changed your job, your car insurance would have to change, you would think that was ridiculous. Why is health insurance any different? It is an accident of history that health insurance is tied to employment: During WWII there was a freeze on wage increases to stymie inflation, so employers gave out health insurance to entice new employees. This may seem like a trivial issue, however if insurance companies were concerned with keeping its subscribers for the long hall, they would focus on long-term health.

• Instead of having “universal health care,” make health care mandatory, like it is for car insurance. This would bring people in their 20s back into the system (30% of whom do not have coverage). These are the people you want paying for insurance because they are relatively healthy and their premiums pay for the care of older people. Also, this would alleviate the problem of poor people relying strictly upon the emergency care system for their health care. This raises health care costs for everyone because emergency rooms cannot deny service to someone who has no insurance, and many of these visits could have easily been prevented months or years earlier at much less cost. I believe this would also foster the creation of more low-frills insurance, created to cater to this new market.

• Halstead favors of tort reform, but only in context of insurance reform and the above ideas.

Personally, I don’t believe that these ideas go far enough. We as a country must take responsibility for our own health. We are the fattest and most sedentary country in the world. We then punish those who eat healthy and exercise by not charging the overweight and sedentary more for health insurance. My extraordinarily healthy family of three in Rhode Island pays $900 a month for health insurance. None of us are overweight, smoke or have any preexisting health conditions. That is more than rent or a mortgage! The administrative costs of these insurance companies are out of control because they are not forced to streamline because of competition like most businesses. Instead, it is in their interest to keep administrative costs high by creating bureaucratic behemoths, which keep payouts to doctor’s low, keeping more money in house. In my state of Rhode Island, it is a lack of capitalism that is the reason for high cost. During the 80's the state, in its infinite wisdom, allowed Blue Cross to become a not-for-profit company, exempting it from many state laws. During the 90's Blue Cross exploited this advantage and drove out the competing companies. Now we are left with a choice between two companies, and the consumer gets railroaded by 20% a year increases in premiums.

Posted by Miguel at April 7, 2004 2:30 PM | TrackBack (1)