So, despite my better judgment, I find myself playing Devil’s advocate on a variety of health care issues over at Music City Bloggers (despite the fact I’m neither musical or in a city, just in the suburbs). For the record, I don’t think there’s that much wrong with the current system, and what is wrong cannot be corrected with government interference (things only get worse when the government gets involved). But I will admit that things like health care insurance probably cost more than they have to, so here’s my plan on bringing down the price of private health insurance for everyone. It’s a little thing I like to call the ‘free market.’
I don’t know how much buying health insurance on your own would cost, because the place I work provides me with health insurance (and I’m not going to Michael Moore myself by searching for random statistics and using the first ones I can find, because the statistics are not relevant to the discussion). I’d imagine most of you don’t know it either, because the place you work provides you with health insurance as well. It is one of the best/worst things the union has ever done for the common worker because while it benefits the union employee, it dooms his nonunion brothers and sisters.
Regardless, people lack health care insurance because, supposedly, it is too expensive. Why is it so expensive? Simple: health insurance is expensive because insurance companies have no pressing interest to sell health insurance to the individual consumer. There’s no real profit to be made selling to people one at a time when they can sell bulk health care services to companies, state governments, and unions.
They get a guaranteed term of service, collect a guaranteed amount of money every year, and because they are insuring hundreds of thousands of people, rather than individual persons, they are guaranteed to make more money than they will have to spend out to cover medical expenses. Most people, as we know, don’t get sick that often, don’t need surgery every day, and generally don’t pursue health care that they don’t need.
Meanwhile, when dealing with an individual person who seeks outside health insurance, there is an inherent risk that they are going to actually, you know, NEED something expensive. Why else would they A) not have a job that provides them with health insurance and B) be seeking out health insurance in the first place? Whether or not this is the case, it’s a reasonable suspicion. Even a lot of employers who don’t have free insurance have companies that they recommend to their employees for insurance. Rightly or wrongly, there’s the appearance that the insuranceless person, who randomly looks for insurance without some kind of back story or employer reference, is in dire need of something expensive.
So, how do you drive down the cost of individual insurance? Simple (well, not simple, but easy). Companies stop providing free or reduced cost insurance to workers and force the insurance companies to sell themselves to the individual consumer. There’s no need to really compete for the individual’s dollar, just the fat pockets of Major Corporation, Inc. (and the right bribe in the right place usually takes care of that). If the insurance companies had to compete for YOUR dollar, premiums would fall. You’d get discounts for things like not smoking or having a gym membership (like good driver and good student discounts with car insurance). There would be an interest, on the part of the health insurance industry, to get your business and reward you for eating right, working out, and not doing heroin.
The onus would be on prevention and early detection, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than treatment. Variable pricing packages would come into play, and those that want the full-blown free everything coverage and can pay for it are more than welcome to have it. Those that want basic coverage and can’t afford the big stuff can still find a low-cost insurance outlet (the Esurance of health insurance, if you will). Those that don’t want anything are free to roll the dice.
How am I so confident competition would improve access to health care? Competition with satellite drove down the price of cable. Competition with cable drove down the price of the phone. Competition between cellular phone companies drives down the price of cell service. Competition drives down the price of meat, cheese, and soda. Competition (assuming the product is readily available) always lowers prices and generally improves services for the consumer (because if you don’t keep the customer happy, there’s always another option).
Car insurance is required, and because everyone needs it and your employer doesn’t pay out the nose for it, prices and packages are affordable for everyone. If you are unhappy with your insurance, television service, doctor, garbage pick-up, or phone company, you can buy better coverage or change providers. If you are unhappy with your company-sponsored health insurance, you can always buy coverage on your own BUT your company is still paying the designated provider for you, so the insurance company doesn’t lose business in response to YOUR unhappiness with coverage.
They’re getting paid regardless. So why should they give a fuck about finding new customers that aren’t corporate customers who are going to pay up a designated amount of money for a guaranteed number of years? Why should they try to cater to individuals who may or may not stay customers when someone comes along and offers the same care for $5 less a month? There’s no reason for them to do it from a business sense Sure there are a lot of uninsured people, but there’s no guarantee they’d want health insurance even if it were available at low cost.
It’s the same reason why, until satellite came along, my local cable company sucked out loud. There was no need to improve service, because I had no other option. Now I’ve got 500 channels, high speed internet, and phone service for $125/month. Who wouldn’t want to bundle their health, life, car, and dental insurance if they got a discount for doing it? I know I would!
Give insurance companies a reason to cut prices and improve service, and they’ll do it because they know if they don’t, one of the many other insurance providers WILL.
Author’s note: As fascinating as I find Noam Chomsky, he’s wrong on economics AND he’s twice as wrong on linguistics. Generative grammar? Come on, that’s been refuted as incorrect since the 50’s, and was based on the completely falsified A-over-A principle invented by one of Chomsky’s students! The only reason anyone takes his linguistics work seriously is because he’s politically popular.
Author’s Note 2: If you read this far, you have my condolences. Sorry it wasn’t funnier. Next time I’ll work in a poop joke.