Hillary Clinton is just the latest presidential candidate to offer up a prescription for the ailing U.S. health care system. In basing her approach on the personal mandate, which means forcing everyone to purchase health care insurance, her plan makes the same mistake as most of the proposals floating around.
It equates health insurance with actual health care, and assumes that having said coverage will solve the problem.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Requiring all of us to buy health insurance is a scam that benefits no one except the insurance industry. If we have no choice except to buy their products or face legal/economic sanctions, what incentive do the health insurance companies have to serve their customers instead of themselves?
Zilch. Zip. Nada.
Take Massachusetts. Bay State residents are now by law obligated to buy health care insurance, but the insurers face no similar mandates to provide affordable policy prices, to cover pre-existing conditions or to quit the games that delay payments for months on end or deny it outright. California is moving in the same direction.
The rest of us should be so blessed. Where do I sign up to convince the government to require that everyone buy my columns while leaving me free to charge outrageous fees, refuse to write for certain people, and take all the time I want to deliver on my contracts or even not deliver at all, with no consequences?
No doubt on K Street in Washington, D.C.
Not only will the health insurance industry grow undeservedly richer if the personal mandate becomes law, other businesses will stop offering health insurance as a benefit, or require employees to foot the entire health insurance bill. Shifting the cost of health care coverage away from companies onto workers has started already under the banner of “consumer-directed” health care, an epic mislabeling on a par with “one size fits all.”
Health insurance and its associated industry are part of the problem, not the solution. Health care insurers spend at least 35 percent of their revenues on costs that have nothing to do with funding actual health care, according to Terry Brauer, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based HealthCare Management Consultants, Inc.
Such non-healthcare-related expenses include administrative overhead, advertising and physician relations, lawsuits over denial of claims, fraud fines, profits, etc. Let’s frame this in a more personal way. More than one-third of every health care insurance premium dollar we shell out does not come back to us as payments for actual health care services or products.
What a ridiculous waste of money. If we were ever serious about cutting the $2 trillion-plus we spend on health care each year, then private insurance would be one of the first places to trim the fat.
Does this mean going to a single-payer health care system? The longer this nation’s health care crisis continues, the better a single-payer system modeled on Medicare before the Bush administration tampered with it appears. Medicare’s administrative costs have been estimated at anywhere between 2 percent and 9 percent, depending on the estimator’s opinions of single-payer health care.
It doesn’t take a math genius to look at the numbers and realize that even 9 percent overhead beats 35 percent by a wide margin.
What we all want is guaranteed access to quality health care that we can afford. Political fixes that focus on insurance alone guarantee nothing of the sort.
© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.