Health Care Reform – Redux

As everyone knows, the health care reform process is in full swing in Washington — and the fur is flying over just how to do it.  The biggest deviation from the norm that we keep hearing is the Public Option.  Unfortunately, as with most government concept programs, there are a dozen different ways to describe just what this will actually look like.  I’m not going to delve into this here, but in a nutshell, it’s CONFUSING. But that’s not the only option on the table, and it’s not the best option either.

We hear alot of talk about how wonderful France’s health care system is (#1 ranked in 2000 by the World Health Organization).  Would something like their system be better here?  Maybe.  But, it does tend to go against the grain of  our American culture.

Public Option vs. Socialized Medicine

First, let me say that I am completely against the Public Option.  I have an inherent dislike of the US Government actually doing business of any kind.  The idea that the US Government will provide competition is stupid.  Having an entity that sets the marketplace rules ALSO be a competitor in that marketplace isn’t competition, it’s monopoly.

On the other hand, having our government provide services to the people through our tax dollars is something I can accept.  For health care, this is what we would call Socialized Medicine.  Basically, we shift the money we were paying in health care premiums over to tax dollars (yes, technically “taxes” go up), and instead of an insurance company, the US Government becomes our single-payer for health insurance.  This would also shift them from an actuarial system to an income-based system. In case you were wondering, this is the basis for the French health care system.

Socialized Medicine DOES NOT eliminate private health insurance.

It’s important to understand that Socialized Medicine DOES NOT eliminate private health insurance.  It DOES kill the health insurance industry as it exists today — which isn’t working for the majority of people anyway.  But, people will always want more choice, and many will be willing to pay extra for more than what they’re getting today.  Under this system, the only thing left for private insurance carriers to provide is supplemental insurance — just like they do for Medicare today.

Is No Choice the Best Choice?

As I said in my previous post on Health Care Reform, the problem with health care today starts with the US Government.  Creating a Public Option health insurance program is a bad idea at best, and anti-competitive at worst.  I’m not completely opposed to the idea of Socialized Medicine, if We The People decide that’s what’s best for us.  But, the US Government can’t balance the budget with my current tax dollars, and Social Security has become a joke under their management.  So, I’m not exactly comfortable giving them MORE of my money to play with.

Still, if the US Government were the only game in town, it would be better than our current system, because we’re still hurt by  for-profit insurance carriers.  Those same companies who often provide excellent coverage for our dollars are robbing us — and our doctors — blind to maintain profit margins.  They’re also spending huge amounts on marketing and advertising that don’t contribute to care, but still come from premiums we pay.  If you look at financial statements for some of the largest public, for-profit insurance carriers in the US, you’ll see they collect almost 20% more in premiums than they pay in health care costs, and make 5% profit after expenses.

These are the only choices I’ve seen come forward from our politicians, and I’m not thrilled with either of them.  If we can’t get to a truly competitive, free-market health care system, then what’s the best choice?  I hate to give it to the French, but I think our private insurance companies should be what theirs are: non-profit, mutual insurance companies. A mutual insurance company is one that is owned by policy holders, and not by shareholders.  This way, any profits the company makes would be redistributed back to those of us paying the premiums, rather than out to some stock holder.  As the owners and premium-payers, it’s in our best interest to keep premiums as low as possible, while still maintaining the best care possible.  And, if the company management isn’t doing that, then we as policy-holders have 2 choices: 1) switch companies, just as we can now; or 2) fire the insurance company managers, something we couldn’t do before!

Still Looking for the Right Answer

Is non-profit, mutual insurance the best option?  Again, maybe.  The Public Option is the only one that doesn’t kill off our current health care insurance industry, but I don’t think it will help.  The single-payer, Socialized Medicine system may be the best option.  But, will it mean better health care and savings for us?  Or, will we just be shifting the money from premiums to taxes?  And, will we end up with the same waiting for specialty services that they have in Canada?

Mutual Insurance keeps our choices, gives us some benefits we didn’t have before, and doesn’t raise taxes, but doesn’t solve many of the other high-cost problems like uninsured visitors to emergency rooms.  For me, it’s a better choice.  How about you?

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