How do I take care of myself when government says I shouldn’t?

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.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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One Response to How do I take care of myself when government says I shouldn’t?

  1. kenski2013 says:

    (1) “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.”

    (a) I’m not a big fan of health insurance companies. That said, I had to have a knee operation (repair of a medial meniscus) a few years ago, when I was still on insurance obtained through Cobra that I paid heavily for. As it turned out, I personally ended up paying about $1400 for the operation and the required physical therapy.

    What makes this interesting is that I was standing by the desk in the doctor’s office, and overheard a conversation about the price of using the out-patient surgery center: $5000 for the operation, and $5000 for the surgeon’s fee!!!!! I didn’t pay near that amount. Of course, the yearly insurance cost under Cobra was easily that much, so I guess it wasn’t a great tradeoff.

    The insurance company apparently had a lot of leverage in renegotiating these costs for me. How much leverage, or success, does anyone believe I would have had on my own?

    (b) Now, if we had Medicare for all (single payer health care), we could minimize the involvement of health insurance companies to advantage plans and supplement plans, saving the profit in basic health care and hospital care for the most part, allowing that money to either go for more care or to reduce costs. And, if President George W. Bush hadn’t forbidden Medicare for negotiating prescription prices when Medicare Part D was created, such negotiation could also save patients a lot of money, like it does in other countries.

    (2) “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.”

    Why would anyone think that healthcare costs would become lower because of innovation? What incentive does the healthcare sector have to lower costs? Yes, that sector is making money, both at the care delivery level and at the health insurance company level. There is essentially no competition, which under capitalism is supposed to bring down costs. Have people been watching how drug companies jack up prices on a whim? Please.

    (3) “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.”

    We do this with car insurance, life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, so why not with health insurance? Why is health insurance a special case?

    Have you seen what out of pocket costs are (without insurance)?

    As to reducing costs, if we had single payer, there would be less overhead costs because (a) doctors and hospitals would have less cost in processing claims, and (b) Medicare can process a claim for about $ .90 9 (ninety cents). Health insurance companies spend almost $19.00!!! Look at all the money that could be saved and/or redirected to other care!

    (4) ‘”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.”

    That’s unfortunately true for the GOP. Many Democrats would have favored single payer when Obamacare was designed, but thought they couldn’t get it passed. Considering the fact that only Democratic votes passed Obamacare, they should have gone for broke and gotten single payer.

    As I have pointed out, we don’t expect our police and fire departments to turn a profit, we expect them to protect and save lives. The basic mission of health care is the same, so why should we let insurance companies make money for simply paying the bills, which essentially is a money-laundering scheme, for a great profit?

    (5) A friend of mine once said that health insurance is not for patients, it’s income insurance for doctors and hospitals, and probably for health insurance companies as well.

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