The plight of the “uninsured” has made the news yet again. According to recent reports from the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured increased 2.2 million in 2006 over 2005 to 47 million or 15.8% of the population. Part of this increase was due to a decline in insurance provided by employers. This decline in coverage might just be because the typical family plan offered by employers rose 7.7% to a staggering $11,480!

There has been great excitement that universal health insurance is at least part if not all of the answer to our health care woes. What is really discouraging is that even conservative, “market-based”, “consumer-driven” and “individual accountablity” proponents tout universal insurance coverage as the answer. I submit that “insurance” is a big part of the problem and no part of the solution. Here is why I reach that conclusion:

  • “Insurance” can be defined as the equitable transfer of a (predictable) risk of a potential loss from one entity to another, in exchange for a premium and duty of care. The “potential loss” is usually of a nature that person would not inflict it upon themselves, their property or others. I fail to see how this definition can be applied to health care any more than it can be applied to the upkeep and maintenance of a house or vehicle, (which, by the way, is why we don’t have “health” insurance for cars and houses). Insurance providers are “risk-takers” not administrators.
  • Somehow we managed to survive and thrive since the “beginning” without modern health care or health insurance. Why is now any different?
  • Health care costs began to spiral upward at about the same time that “health insurance” was introduced during World War II as a way to sidestep wage controls. As insurance has become mandated and regulated, the spiral has accelerated. Hmm, I wonder why? There are still a few procedures and services that aren’t covered by insurance AND most are still within financial reach of the average person.
  • Each fix, mandate and regulation was supposed to reduce cost and/or improve quality. PPO’s, HMO’s, HSA’s…they were all supposed to be the great fix yet they each seem to have made the problem worse. Doesn’t this tell us something? Like maybe more of the same just might possibly be counter-productive?
  • There is no market for health insurance, if there were, the government would not have to force employers to provide it to their employees , rather, we’d be purchasing it of our own accord. I wonder what might happen to the employer that may choose to rid himself of the headache and give the $11,480 to the employee and…heaven forbid…let the employee make his or her own decisions?
  • Lack of insurance does not affect access to or quality of health care. The unimpeded access of millions of illegals to our health care services at little or no cost is proof enough.
  • Just like taxes, most people have a “use it or lose it” attitude toward health insurance. There is no incentive to be prudent. Get your money’s worth or more even if you don’t need it. Better yet, “someone else” is paying for it, so who cares? Is “inflationary” the correct word?
  • The June 2007 Reader’s Digest had 220 numbered pages. Within those 220 pages were (by my count) 44 pages and inserts for 11 prescription drugs that most people would opt not to purchase (or would at least think about real hard) if “someone else” weren’t paying for it.
  • Why does a heart valve replacement in the US start at about $200,000, when you can go to India to an Indian doctor trained in America using American equipment and American parts and have it done for under $10,000? I argue that it boils down to insurance for 2 reasons: 1) insurance provides no incentive for “frugality” and 2) lawyers don’t sue doctors, they sue insurance companies.

There is no place for health insurance in consumer driven health care, unless, of course, you want “someone else” to foot your bill. Furthermore, it is downright laughable to even consider health insurance as a part of socialized health care. The only way to socialize health care is to put the health care industry on the government payroll and tell the insurance companies to get lost, right? I mean, aren’t they supposed to make a profit? That’s not supposed to happen in a socialized system, right?

The only real solution is a consumer-driven health care system where the consumer makes the decisions and pays the bills. There are many that do just that. I am a member of a group of 12,000 other families that believe it is OUR health and OUR money therefore we are, must be, and have a right to be good stewards of both. We make our own health care choices, are responsible for payment, and our needs are shared among our group.

Here’s an idea. What would happen if the employee were to choose between 1) insurance coverage paid for by the employer or 2) cash payment of the $11,480 that is spent on the typical employee health insurance premium? I think we know the answer, which is why it will never happen.

Chuck Angier is self-employed in agri-business in Virginia. He can be contacted at chuckangier@gmail.com

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