Tag Archives: Obamacare

how about behavior reform?

When I started this blog, I wanted to keep personal details out of it. Mostly so if random people happened to find it, they wouldn’t discount my opinions because of my background or experiences. But, let’s be honest: who we are shapes our opinions, world views, understanding and expectations. Right? So, if readers choose to discount my perspective because of any personal details I happen to share, I didn’t want them here anyway!

In 2007 I was working, my husband was in school, and our insurance was provided through my employer. Then I had a baby and chose not to return to work. But because we needed insurance for some medical issues, we chose to pay COBRA for the next 6 or 8 months. COBRA cost us around $850/month, as much as the rent on our apartment.

During that time, I needed to have a small procedure done. It came up just as we were considering ending our COBRA coverage, so we figured we’d see which was the more economical option: pay the $850 for another month of coverage or pay for the procedure in cash. I asked my doctor what the procedure would cost. She had no idea. I asked the front desk people what it would cost, they had no idea. I asked the billing people and all they could tell me was, “Oh honey, it’d cost a few thousand dollars at best.” No one could give me an exact figure. So, we paid for another month of COBRA.

But it’s hit me lately that, as consumers, it’s almost impossible for us to operate within the healthcare market the same way we operate within other markets. My husband, for example, is a huge deal hunter. He researches, he studies, he shops around, he gets the best deal he can find. I don’t think we pay full price for much of anything, and it’s great to be able to choose how we spend our money on the items we want or need.

With our healthcare, however, we don’t even question the cost. Why? Because “our insurance covers it.” Someone else is paying for it. We’ve even adopted the attitude that, “Well, I probably could just wait out this cold, but shoot, it’s only $5 to see the doctor, I might as well go in.” What does that doctor visit really cost? Who knows? $100? $10? If the healthcare market actually functioned like every other market in this country, I’d call around and see which doctor had the best rates (combined with the best quality of service) before going in and spending my money on a visit.

Before we blow trillions of dollars on sweeping healthcare reform, why don’t we focus on behavior reform? If consumers could understand comparison shopping and financial accountability, they’d force the market to become competitive, all without government involvement or mandates. How to achieve this, I have no idea, but letting the credit market crash would’ve been a good start.

This video demonstrates my point exactly! And I appreciate how he clarifies that insurance initially existed to cover huge expenses like cancer treatment, catastrophic emergencies, etc., not routine, day-to-day care. Can’t we get back to that way of thinking?

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When in Rome

You know why I think a government-run healthcare plan will ultimately fail? Because politicians aren’t businessmen.

Politicians look at the current broken healthcare system in our country and instead of thinking like businessmen, they’re thinking like politicians. Instead of looking at the reasons the current system fails people (pre-existing conditions, immovable coverage [if you lose your job, you can’t take your coverage with you without paying crazy amounts of money for COBRA], increased rates when you get sick, etc.) and trying to improve them, they’re trying to put in place another already-broken system just to create competition. Because, as politicians, they sincerely think that’s the answer.

Let’s look at their perspective: Healthcare needs reform: more Americans need coverage, the costs have to come down. As the government, they feel it’s their responsibility to provide the kind of reform that will extend coverage and lower costs. So, they’ll create their own healthcare system and insurance plans! This will cause competition among the existing insurance companies (= lower costs) and be an affordable alternative to private plans (= extend coverage). Their system will solve everyone’s problems and eventually completely dismantle the original broken system. Mission accomplished. (Except for the small problem that their plan won’t actually lower costs and millions more Americans will lose coverage as their companies transition over to the government plan, but those are facts none of the politicians are addressing because they conflict with their selling points.)

But the fact of the matter is that insurance companies are in business to make money. That’s why they don’t provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, why your rates increase after receiving coverage. Oh, those villianous capitalists.

Granted, I’m no CEO or business owner. And I’m completely against the government forcing us to do anything. But the feds are intent on pushing some kind of legislation through whether we like it or not. So it seems to me that what they should be doing is creating incentives for insurance companies to: provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, to make their individual plans more affordable and portable so if people lose their jobs they don’t go broke paying for COBRA, etc. Incentives that still keep the industry’s bottom line in mind but also solve the problems the whole system faces. Maybe incentives already exist and don’t work? I don’t really know. I’m still thinking through this whole politicians-trying-to-operate-as-businessmen idea.

The government option won’t make any money (I’m not aware of any government-run entities that make a profit; can anyone show me some?), it’ll continue to cost taxpayers (especially wealthier taxpayers) billions and trillions of dollars, and quality of care is completely going to suffer. If the government is going to compete with businesses in the private market, they need to actually think and operate like a business. When in Rome, Mr. Obama…

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Alternate ideas

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not opposed to changing the healthcare system, I’m just opposed to the kind of change that results in government-run options and the step-by-step destruction of the American marketplace.

This article presents some great alternatives to the sweeping, competing bills being presented in the House. In short:

  • Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs).
  • Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits.
  • Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines.
  • Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover.
  • Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. [FYI: Doctors MUST pursue payment from their patients. If they don’t, the IRS comes after them. Lawyers, coincidentally, not only have the option to take on pro bono work but they can deduct it from their taxes based on what they would have charged! So sure, your malpractice attorney “won’t get paid if you don’t get paid” but he’ll still deduct it from his taxes; and your doctor’s malpractice insurance just doubled. Thanks, Justice.]
  • Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost.
  • Enact Medicare reform.
  • Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Just because people don’t agree with ObamaCare doesn’t mean they’re totally happy with the status quo. But lawmakers don’t seem to even step back from a government option in favor of true reform to the system–reform ideas like those presented above. Instead, they want to initiate a plan that will ultimately evolve into a single-payer system (no matter what Obama says, take a look at the math) and put the government in charge of your health.

Let’s look at options that take the existing system and improve it instead of throwing it out the window and putting a different, broken system in place.

I, personally, don’t even think this debate is that critical. (Gasp.) Sure, Congress and the media and the President keep throwing around that infamous number of uninsured Americans that need coverage now! What’s it up to today, 50 million? I’ve been digging around to find a breakdown of those 50 million people and the reasons they’re uninsured. I mean, hello, they’re the reason for this whole mess right? (Well, and a power-hungry administration, but that’s another post.) The most concise information I could find breaks it down as follows:

According to the US Census Bureau, 17 million of those without health insurance live in households having over $50,000 in annual income. That’s 38% of the uninsured in America.(2)

In fact, 9 million – 20% of the uninsured – reside in households pulling down more than $75K a year. (3)

And then there are the young invincibles. Over 18 million of the uninsured are people between the ages of 18 and 34. (4) They spend more than four times as much on alcohol, tobacco, entertainment and dining out as they do for out-of-pocket spending on health care.(5) They represent 40% of the uninsured in America.

14 million people without health insurance are eligible for government health care programs like Medicaid and S-CHIP but choose not to enroll. (7) They represent %31 – nearly one third – of the uninsured in America.

The U.S. has 12 million illegal immigrants who don’t buy health insurance but still get health care.

So, how many are truly uninsured? Around eight million. Just 18% of the 45 million that we hear about so often.

This data is based on 2007 Census info and other sources, but 8 million Americans equals out to about 3% of the population. Is it worth destroying our economic infrastructure to provide coverage to 3% of the population? Or is it worth it to examine alternate improvements to the existing system to provide that access?

47millionuninsured

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Take action!

A friend forwarded an email to me that had an outline of questions we should be asking our representatives about Obamacare. It came at a great time for me, because I’m starting to feel like a broken record when I call my Senators’ and Congressman’s offices. My bottom line is always, “The government shouldn’t be involved at all.” And although I’ve read about and thought about the issues contained in the outline, I never get around to asking about them. And, regardless of your political stance about Obamacare or controversial issues like abortion, these are questions that need to be addressed. Now.

I know I’m not the only one who’s fed up with lawmakers rushing bills through without knowing what’s in them. I know I’m not the only one who’s fed up with being ignored by our leaders. I know I’m not the only one who’s fed up with the media glazing over important details like this just to add hype to the “hope” Obama has promised. The only change I see coming from him is the change he’s taking out of my paycheck.

Look up your senators, look up your congressman, write a letter, make a phone call, attend a townhall meeting. Get involved! Make your voice heard!

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The thought of Obamacare makes me sick

The idea of a socialized healthcare system makes me sick. I don’t even know if I can adequately put into words the outrage and foreboding I feel when I think about the healthcare debate going on.

1. The government has NO BUSINESS getting involved in the marketplace! That’s the bottom line. But somehow Americans have become so dependent on the federal government that they think it’s not only right but their job to do things like regulate and bail out businesses; step in and reconstruct our entire healthcare system; hand out free food, free housing, free utilities, free education; and redistribute the wealth. The federal government has been handing out fish for so long that most Americans don’t even know they have the option to go catch their own fish, let alone possess the skills to fish for themselves. The government has created a society dependent on their handouts and this healthcare reform is just another fish.

2. The cost issue: who is going to pay for this?? The people who aren’t dependent on the handouts, that’s who. And our children. And our grandchildren. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t work hard to go through college and grad school so I could get a job and see half of my paycheck go to support Joe Blow down the street who does nothing but sit on his stoop all day. I donate 10% of my income to charity; I’m happy to provide meals, clothing, transportation, money and support to people who need it. But I’ll be darned if my government is going to take my money and make those decisions for me. And I’ll be damned if my government is going to take my money to pay for abortions, or ER visits for illegal immigrants who not only don’t pay any taxes but don’t bother to take the necessary steps to become citizens.

3. President Obama and his supporters in Congress promise that we’ll be able to keep our doctors and plans if we’re satisfied with them. Riiiiiiiight. Sure, they’re not going to force us to switch plans. But “their” option will compete with my current option and you know what? Because I’m already paying so much in taxes for “their” option, it’s going to be cheaper for my boss to switch over to that. Where’s my choice in the matter? I have none.

4. And then what? Employers start switching to ObamaPlan and employees get dumped into the system. Big Brother, anyone? First, the government will have access to all our  medical records. (Privacy, what?) Let’s all go read 1984, Brave New World, and go watch Minority Report. I’m no conspiracy-theorist, I just like my inalienable rights as they are, thankyouverymuch.

Second, the system will be flooded. And we all know what that means, thanks to countries like Canada and Britain who are providing their citizens with such stellar access to care. Last summer, I needed eye surgery. I noticed a problem with my left eye; I called my doctor on Friday. She referred me to a specialist, who I saw on Monday. I had surgery on Tuesday. Prompt access to quality care = vision saved. Can the government guarantee the same results? I highly doubt it. If I had had to wait even a week to see my doctor, or even wait a week for surgery, my vision in that eye would be gone. And from what I know about healthcare in Canada and Britain, waiting only a week for either a doctor visit or surgery would be a miracle unto itself.

Third, competition will flatline. Ironic, isn’t it? Who’s going to want to go to years and years of medical school, work hard, go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt (or maybe not, since they’ll be working for the government) only to come out and make a generic salary based on the number of patients they see? Can you imagine the quality of doctors our country will produce? Mediocre, at best.

Fourth, don’t we already have a government option available for people who can’t afford coverage? Um, isn’t it called Medicare? And wow, that system is a shining beacon of successful, high-quality medical care, isn’t it?

I understand it’s a complicated issue. I understand that the lawmakers like us to think issues are too complicated to understand. But you know what? My opinion matters. So does yours. I called my senators and congressman today; did you?

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Where’s the appeal?

Dear [Senators/Congressman],

I am adamantly, outrageously, 100% opposed to the idea of government-run healthcare in the US. I’d like to ask why you support such a measure, given the mediocre quality of care and long waiting times patients face in other countries that have adopted socialized medicine?

I’ve received your form response several times about the “need” to “act now” to extend healthcare coverage to millions of Americans, so please answer my question itself: What exactly appeals to you about the way in which countries like Canada, England, France, etc., run their healthcare system?

Thank you.

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