Column - Something has to changeWouldn’t you be surprised to get a bill in the mail for $1,000 just for getting your car’s oil changed or a tire fixed?
By: Lowell Anderson, Alexandria Echo Press
Wouldn’t you be surprised to get a bill in the mail for $1,000 just for getting your car’s oil changed or a tire fixed?
That’s what would happen if we had the same system of insurance for auto repairs that we now have for medical care.
Of course, you wouldn’t really have to pay the whole $1,000, because your auto repair insurance would pay part of it. So, in reality, you’d only be stuck with about $500. Thank goodness for insurance!
In the same way that having widespread auto repair insurance would drive up repair costs to unaffordable and unnaturally high levels, the combination of health insurance and medical care has been disastrous for consumers. Instead of letting individuals and families determine prices by what they’re able and willing to pay (like we do for almost all other products and services), we now have multi-billion dollar insurance companies setting health care prices based on what they can afford. The problem is that what they can afford is determined by how much they charge us for insurance – which keeps increasing all the time.
Although neither the health care nor the insurance industries are separately to blame (after all who doesn’t want to make more money), the relationship between the two ensures an ever-increasing cycle of price increases that benefit only them.
How could we have been so stupid as to allow this terrible partnership? Health insurance started off innocently enough with the idea of providing protection in the event of a serious accident or illness – a catastrophe that could result in financial ruin or the inability to get critical medical care.
However, somewhere along the line, health insurance also began covering routine medical expenses that we could have easily paid for ourselves. In the years since then, the symbiotic relationship between health care and health insurance has driven costs to the point that now, even with insurance, it is becoming impossible to afford health care.
Many people seem to have concluded that the only solution is a national health care system. The problem is, it’s almost impossible for government to do anything cheaply or efficiently, and a national plan that covered everyone would probably be even more expensive than our present system. The only way we could possibly finance such a plan and still maintain all the other services we’ve gotten used to, would be to drastically raise taxes. It would also more than likely necessitate a lower quality of health care than we now have.
The only other solution would be to put health care and insurance on a diet. Both industries have gotten fat on the current arrangement and need to lose some weight. Like most diets, it wouldn’t be easy or painless. We would either have to somehow limit prices charged for medical care, or get rid of health insurance for all but catastrophic coverage and let the market correct itself.
Whichever way we choose, the health care and insurance industries will both be seeing drastic changes in the future.
Although government intervention usually is a bad idea, I don’t think we have a choice any more. The health care system long ago stopped being controlled by free-market economics and cannot continue on its current path. Either we limit health care prices, limit insurance or set up a national health care system. The first two options would be painful to certain industries for a little while, but would eventually bring prices down and restore economic balance. The government-run health plan would temporarily solve the problem, but would probably result in much higher taxes, lower quality of care and lots of bureaucracy.
The only way to solve this problem without implementing a government health care system, is for us to realize that health insurance in its present form is not the solution – it is the problem.