While most acknowledge our current system of health care has flaws, it is absolutely NOT as bad as many would lead you to believe and, on the whole, works better than any other system. Unfortunately, the political opportunists are just using it as a means to EXPAND the role of government rather than seriously address any of the warts and pimples of the system.
During all the recent discussions on this topic, one problem that’s been identified is the lack of “portability” of a worker’s insurance plan if they lose their job… or change jobs… the worker cannot continue under the same plan and must “start over” or qualify for coverage under their new employer’s plan. Indeed, this is a true flaw in the current system, especially if the worker or a covered family member develops a serious health condition during the time of employment… they can be denied coverage at the new job due to a pre-existing condition. Such situations are inherently unfair… a worker might even WANT to change jobs but recognize they cannot for this reason alone.
Few, however, have asked WHY these circumstances came about in the first place, though. It certainly makes most sense for an individual to have personal/family insurance coverage that is tied to THEM and not to their EMPLOYER.
A free market wouldn’t normally evolve in this manner, it would find equilibrium closer to what is most attractive to the consumer. So, how did our current system –with this built-in flaw– come into existence?
Simple… government meddling.
A major defect with our current “healthcare situation” was CAUSED by government… and now government wants to “fix it” with MORE control over the system. Ironic.
What government interference, you ask? Wage controls.
During World War II, government tried to manipulate the free market and keep prices/wages down. Businesses were forced to become creative in order to attract better, more talented people… and to keep them. Since they couldn’t pay them more, they added “benefits”… including health insurance coverage. Obviously, this proved to be popular. Further government manipulation of the tax code made it more attractive when the costs of such benefits became tax preferred.
Like many things, once started the program was hard to stop. Soon, most employers were in the “insurance business”… not because they wanted to be, but because it was an accepted form of compensation. In-house specialists were needed to administer programs and there is a serious overhead cost to such programs… but too much momentum was built up and businesses could not abandon these benefits or they would lose good employees.
It would have made more sense if employees could simply be paid more and purchase their own insurance. But that was against an artificial (and temporary, I might add) rule created by government. Like many government actions, there are unintended consequences… and some of those carry on LONG after government decides to abandon that action.
But, that’s not all.
A side effect of this was the fact that company benefit programs came in between the purveyor of a service (the insurance company) and the consumer of the service (the employee), which has a detrimental effect in the overall purchasing process. The closer a buyer and seller are in a transaction, the more likely a “good deal” will occur… both buyer and seller will negotiate for the optimum deal they can both be happy with. When there is an intermediary, such as the employer (or today, yet another outside party engaged to manage the benefits), the transaction becomes muddied… they buyer does not directly feel the impact of every dollar spent on acquiring the service they are receiving. In other words, the true cost is largely hidden from view… and no consumer can make good decisions without a CLEAR picture of the costs they are really paying.
IF individuals (employees) were paying for their own insurance directly all along… with no employer intermediary activity… the problem of portability would not exist. IF individuals were being paid the same total dollars that an employer spends, including their contributions to insurance, and the employee paid the full cost of insurance to THEIR CHOICE of provider… the individual would have a better understanding of the true costs they were paying and, over time, would have exerted considerable market pressure to get the best deals… AND may well have exerted political pressure to allow purchasing across state lines (another drawback of our present system). Bottom line: chances are very good a better system would have evolved, one that mitigated the drawbacks of our current mess.
ONCE AGAIN, government is “coming to the rescue” with the “solution” to the problem THEY helped create. Do I trust them to do any better than they’ve done in the past? Do I want to experience whatever unintended consequences will undoubtedly come out of the EXPANSIVE plan that has been set force?
No, thank you.