Friday, April 07, 2006

Health Insurance, Not Health Care

A recent article in the Kansas City Star spotlighted doctors who work outside the safe confines of the insurance industry. When you visit one of these doctors, you either pay for the service they provide or they send you a bill. The patient is free to either pay the bill or file the charge with his insurance company for payment reimbursement. According to the article, approximately 10% of all doctors in America operate with such a policy.

Imagine that. Paying for a service that is provided directly to you. What a concept!

It’s not an original idea. The entire health care industry operated like that until somewhere around the middle of the last century. Then somebody got the bright idea that employers should pay for health care.

Where did that come from? Does my employer pay for my gasoline? Does my employer buy my eggs and milk and bread? Does my employer pay my rent or my mortgage?

Then why should I expect my employer to pay for my health care?

What’s worse, common thought is now trying to make my government  pay for my health care. Yeah, just like my government pays for my eggs and milk and bread and housing. I don’t think so.

The state of Massachusetts is trying to circumvent the issue. They recently passed a law that requires  all citizens to buy health insurance. Remember, any time a government says you have to pay something, it’s really a tax —  no matter what they call it. So the State of Massachusetts has just achieved the distinction of being the first state in 100 years to attempt to enforce a poll tax. That indeed is what it would be: a tax on living. If you live here, you pay this.

The problem comes when people confuse health care  with health insurance. I want to treat health insurance like car insurance. When I need an oil change or a new set of tires or new wiper blades, I buy them. When a large, unexpected expense occurs — like a major accident — my auto insurance is there to help me pay for it.

Did you get that? It’s insurance, not care.

Some people bristle at the thought of paying for their own health care. The dirty little secret is you are already paying for it. Health care benefits are currently paid from insurance premiums and taxes, which you paid in the first place. Why should I pay an insurance company to pay my doctor? I’d rather just pay him in the first place and take the insurance company out of the picture completely.

I’ll keep my health insurance as a cushion against large, unexpected health care costs. Other than that, I’d rather just pay my doctor in the first place. That’s the best way I know of reining-in spiraling health care costs.

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