Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My thoughts on health care reform.

Everybody else seems to be weighing in with their views on the health care situation, so I might was well also.

My personal health care plan is simple – don’t get sick. That has worked just fine so far. I workout, watch what I eat, and don’t do much hazardous activity. For 61 years and counting that has kept me out of hospitals and kept my health care costs to near zero. I have never filed a claim for health care and I pay for any doctor’s visits, which are few and far between, out of my pocket.

And it is a good thing because I have been self-employed my whole life. That means that I have never had an employer to pick-up the tab for my health insurance. To me being self-employed is worth the risk of not having employer paid insurance. For most people it is not. In fact, lack of health care is the biggest deterrent for not starting a new business and it is the biggest expense for existing businesses.

The United States is the only country in the world where health care is tied to a person’s employer. This situation makes it extremely hard to leave a job with good benefits. Existing conditions force many people to be slaves to a job they don’t like and stifles new businesses.

When I have traveled to other countries, I have been amazed at the number of small shops and businesses there are compared to the US. I eventually realized that running a small business is much less stressful when the entrepreneur doesn’t have to worry about health care or paying health benefits. Health care is the principle reason that locally owned businesses have trouble competing with national chains.

The US is number 37 in quality of health care according to the World Health Organization, yet we pay about 40% more than anybody else. (See YouTube) This is partly because we have unhealthy lifestyles, but also due to a host of other issues. We think that more health care is better health care, therefore we tend to have more tests and procedures than are necessary. Doctors frequently order more and more expensive tests to cover themselves in case of lawsuits which are regular, often frivolous, and always expensive.

When insurance companies try to limit procedures to cut costs, they are seen as the bad guys. In truth, in an ideal, or even slightly better situation, there would be no need for insurance companies at all. After all, they are one of the biggest players in the health care system and they add nothing at all to the system except control the flow of money.

A huge amount of health care dollars go to paper work. This is due to the myriad of insurance companies, health care organizations, and government agencies. A lot of the paper work is due to the pay-for-services system where every little thing is charged to somebody. If doctors were salaried instead of being paid for each item and procedure, billions of dollars would be saved.

Americans are afraid of their government and thus the term “socialized medicine” strikes fear. The truth is socialized medicine works better in at least 36 other countries, and virtually every industrialized country, than our convoluted system of independent doctors, lawyers, hospitals, pharmacy companies, and insurance companies.

I expect that most people are willing to pay a percent of their income for health care. It should make little difference if that money is in the form of taxes, insurance, or income that they don’t get because their employer is forking it over to the insurance company instead of their employees.

I am not optimistic. We have too many people making too much money, and too many organizations with vested interest in keeping things the way they are, for there to be any kind of real reform in the near future.