Affordable Health Care for Everyone: Government or Big Business Responsibility?
I received the following email a couple of days ago:
Congress wants to offer free health care to millions of uninsured children. Who could be against that? But President Bush is afraid insuring kids is a slippery slope -- opening the door to affordable health care for everyone. How terrible.
Many Republican senators are ignoring Bush in favor of insuring kids. But we still don't have enough votes to override Bush's veto threat -- and the Senate vote is just days away.
I signed a petition urging Congress to vote for the biggest health care expansion in over 40 years. Can you join me at the link below?
Ironically, I have been reading a book called The Cure, by Dr. David Gratzer, outlining the problems with our healthcare system and possible solutions. After reading the book, I was moved to write in opposition of Congressâ€™s proposal.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program is about to expire. Currently, it provides coverage for roughly six million poor children and, in some states, nearly 600,000 adults.
President Bush wants to veto the House bill that proposes adding $50 billion to the program over the next five years, and the Senate about $35 billion more, in hopes to give health insurance to all children.
On a PBS interview, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Levitt said, â€œthe president desires to have the State Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorized. It's very important; he'd like Congress to do it soon. We think it's an important program. We want to make certain that no child who's currently covered by the program or eligible for the program loses that eligibility.
What he objects to is using this program or its reauthorization as a chance to expand dramatically the number of people who have federal health care. He believes that, while every American needs access to an affordable basic policy, that there are better ways to do it than to put people who make $80,000 a year on welfare.â€
I agree it is a shame that there are children who are uninsured. However, there are a few things that need to be addressed before our government begins to pour money into a program:
- First and foremost, we need to consider the following question: who are these 6 million uninsured children? According to Dr. Gratzer, out of the 46 million uninsured Americans, only 8 million are chronically uninsured. Some people are uninsured for less than a year while transitioning from job to job. Are these 6 million children chronically uninsured, or are they the product of parents jumping from job to job, or the product of parents who consciously choose not to have insurance?
- Our current healthcare system makes it too expensive for families to purchase health insurance if their employer does not provide it or they are unemployed. Dr. Gratzer provides a great example of how expense insurance can cost for a family. Consider the following: the monthly premium for a $500-deductible family insurance in New Jersey costs $3780 from the lowest provider (Oxford Health). To lease a Ferrari 36 F-Modena for a 60-month lease costs $2023 to $2236. Instead of the government giving billions of dollars to a program, why not instead make insurance more affordable for people to buy on their own? Perhaps it is safe to suggest that people who make $80,000 a year should be put on welfare for insurance if the costs are so astronomical. But our government can be spending those billions of dollars on other matters, like the environment or education, if insurance carriers lowered their costs. The current State Children's Health Insurance Program can then support the children who do not have parents or who have parents who are chronically uninsured with the money that already funds it.
- To take this a step deeper, our current health insurance system does not provide insurance in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it provides people a third party credit card to use on health-related services. Dr. Gratzer makes a simple comparison: imagine if your auto insurance allowed you to get a new paint job, oil changes, and other cosmetic or day to day functions. That is how our health insurance works. We pay a small co-pay and someone else foots the bill, most often our employer. In some cases, plastic surgery is covered. What about simply providing catastrophic insurance that is affordable for the average person? We cannot expect insurance companies to lower their costs when inherently, there is no consumer choice and consumers are not held fiscally responsible for their health-related costs. The reason I say this is if the employers are paying a significant amount of money for their employeeâ€™s health insurance, their employees are not concerned about the costs since it is on their employer, then a private insurance package for a family not covered by an employer cannot compete with the going rate.
- Regardless of the current health insurance costs, the uninsured can still receive health services. The email that I received wrongly depicts millions of children who are going to die if our government does not spend more money on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. According to Dr. Gratzerâ€™s research, â€œthe government already spends about $30.6 billion annually on care for the uninsured, but in a round-about, heavily bureaucratic manner. There is also another $13.8 billion of cost that gets picked up by public programs.â€ Adding $85 billion more may not be the answer we need. Instead, reforming the current system by making current health service more easily available, and health insurance more affordable and/or more consumer choice driven sounds more economical and efficient.
As someone who currently falls into the uninsured category, I read The Cure to find an alternative to Cobra and Freelancers Union as well as understand the health insurance issue that may come up when I give health workshops at corporations. In it, I found the answer: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). They cost less than $100/month in some cases, cover catastrophic insurance and give me an incentive to be healthy.
With obesity on the rise and heart disease the number one killer in America, I would rather support the government in spending money on health and fitness programs than a health insurance system that is going down the tubes. I would rather give people the incentive to choose a healthy lifestyle and be rewarded for it. And most importantly, I would rather see our children fed food that makes them feel better and keep them out of the hospital to begin with. Letâ€™s prevent our children from getting sick, using prescription drugs and developing diabetes. Once those issues are resolved, then ask me to sign a petition to give more money to the State Children's Health Insurance Program.