11 February 2010

Health care - I had to do it

A couple of people who read my blog have asked why I haven't mentioned anything about health care. It is mostly because the debates tend to be too frequent, overheated, and full of fallacious arguments, but here is my take on the whole situation.
First, health care is not a right. It is a need, but as soon as the product of someone else's labor becomes a "right", we are starting to discuss slavery. We have a right to conduct our own lives as we see fit to the point that it does not infringe on another person's right to conduct their life. If one wishes to live a long and healthy life, there will be some amount of medical care needed along the way. It is the individual's responsibility to provide for that eventuality. The idea that there is a right to health care, let alone health insurance, is the product of a government and media propaganda campaign. Humans need to eat to fuel our bodies, but that doesn't make food a right.
Second, if the desire is to make health care more affordable, it has to start with tort reform (which will impact more than health care in a positive fashion). We have to get the bottom feeding, ambulance chasing law firms out of the picture. It is very typical for a doctor to have to pay $100,000 per year in malpractice insurance premiums. This also increases "defensive medicine", the "excessive" diagnostic procedures that so much of the punditry whines about. Doctors are having to practice CYA medicine to make sure that, in the off chance something goes wrong, they have run every possible test so that they can't be nailed to the cross for not finding something. Doctors are still human and do make mistakes. Malpractice is defined by negligence, ignorance, or criminal intent, not human error.
Following on the heels of tort reform needs to be the elimination of Medicare for future generations (current recipients have been committed to and they have planned their lives based on that commitment). Based on recent studies, the expenditures from the government will be over half of all health care spending in the United States in 2010. This wouldn't be quite as painful if it were properly funded, yet as they drive costs up by mandating who and what is covered, they are also limiting payments and imposing such prohibitive rules that there is little, if any, motivation for a doctor to cover government patients. The system was a violation of The Constitution at its inception and it continues to get worse.
Third, what gets referred most frequently as health insurance is not insurance, it is a maintenance plan. I agree that there should be some type of insurance with variable coverage based on what you are willing to pay, but when you start covering every single visit to the doctor's office, it becomes a maintenance plan. Also, pre-existing condition coverage should get priced accordingly. There is a cost to continued coverage of something like diabetes that a non-diabetic does not incur. It is no different than someone with multiple speeding tickets paying more for automobile insurance with the exception that some of the conditions are genetic. The genetic piece makes the debate a bit more complicated, but let's at least start calling things what they really are.
Fourth, and finally, if you want to get the cost of health insurance reduced, the United States government should be leveraging the interstate commerce clause for what it was intended and disallow individual states to restrict which companies can sell health insurance in their state. It may be acceptable for the states to make requirements on coverage amounts (as they do with automobile liability), but not who is allowed to sell it. While I am on the subject, insurance companies making a profit is not evil. They are required, by intelligent analysis, to have a large reserve of cash to be able to cover claims. Consider if something like tuberculosis were to spread through a community that was largely insured by the same company. They would need to be able to cover all claims in a very short time frame, shorter than normal cash flow would allow. In addition, these are for profit corporations that have stock holders to answer to, not charity organizations.
It is interesting to me that people who debate this issue publicly do not differentiate between health care and health insurance. There is a distinct difference and the cost structure for each have unique solutions. Always remember the quote from Barry Goldwater; "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have."

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