Yesterday I saw Nancy Pelosi on television giving the press her response to Republican efforts to significantly amend the Affordable Care Act. I zoned out as she attempted to describe the benefits some Americans would lose should the Republicans have their way with health care finance.
I say health care finance because the messages from the left and right of the issue say little about actual health and wellness. To some individuals, health and wellness are their wealth and they invest in ensuring that wealth is not eroded by lack of exercise, lack of preventative initiatives, lack of good food. They invest time, money, and other resources to mitigate against the possibility of falling into bad health.
I can’t say that I’ve spent a lifetime practicing good behavior. Poor eating habits led to weight gain which led to high blood pressure. Many of us put ourselves at risk of a heart attack, stroke, or death while creating a demand on the medical and pharmaceutical industries to treat us. In the end these are the behaviors that drive up the cost of a doctor visit, x-rays, and drugs. These are also the behaviors that drive down wages, where individuals have to stay home as a result of illness and their reduced productivity leads to reduced compensation.
Not all illnesses or medical events can be prevented. You can’t predict car accidents or accidents at work. You can’t predict being shot during a robbery and sustaining life changing injuries as a result. You should be able to buy insurance for these catastrophic events just as you would for your automobile.
You should also be able to pay for health services out-of-pocket like any other services without some backlash predicated on a value judgment that somehow you are a bad person for not joining a network where your contribution goes to aiding those who did not take care of themselves the way you did.
Democrats don’t care to hear about that sort of freedom. Taking care of you is the underlying theme of their political packages. With healthcare, they are able to minimize the amount of tax dollars it would take to provide you with health insurance by passing on the bulk of premiums and deductibles to you while insurance companies enjoy the benefits of having you on their rolls.
The healthcare sector has been benefiting with the NYSE Healthcare Index reporting a 6.9% rising in the sectors value between this writing and November 9, 2016. I expect them to keep benefiting as demand for their services will continue to increase as the population ages. Also, if they continue to be innovative, they will be able to serve a growing population of patients at lower costs and greater profit.
Can government make healthcare more affordable? The problem is that the government has never defined what “affordable” is supposed to mean. Do we mean doctor visits and hospital stays increasing at a certain percentage per year? Do we mean a cap on drug price increase? Do we mean total projected healthcare costs as a percentage of median household budgets? Affordable is never defined.
I’d rather negotiate with the market as an individual. Along with my healthcare provider, I can determine what I need, get information on how much it will cost to fulfill that need, and seek out financing alternatives that help me achieve my goals when current income or my budget falls short. All government is doing is forcing the consumers’ hands as to which financial vehicle they should be using, and it’s obvious that Washington wants consumers to use insurance companies.