“Insurance” OR (Time to fix it)

I’m sure you all have heard the noise about the Obama Administration’s prioritization of Health Care reform, and the promise to accomplish such this year.

Personally, I hope it happens…  but more than that, I hope it happens in such a way as to completely undermine the Health Insurance industry.

Looking at the big picture, nothing seems more ridiculous than having a for-profit layer of bureaocracy between this country’s people and health care providers. It almost ensures that we’ll lose money in the deal.

The Obama Administration has also indicated that health care reform needs to work not only for the almost 50 million people uninsured, but to work better for everyone else who is insured. Which is great, considering that, for most people, what they have doesn’t work now, even if they don’t know it.

I’ve talked about this before, but it seems like it’s worth reiterating: we’re all potentially “underinsured.” If we have the misfortune of being struck by any significant illness, our “insurance” won’t cover our costs. It’s almost a given.

To illustrate how absolutely fucked up our current system is, Ezra points to an article from Time:

What makes these cases terrifying, in addition to heartbreaking, is that they reveal the hard truth about this country’s health-care system: just about anyone could be one bad diagnosis away from financial ruin. Most people get their coverage where they work. But Anna McCourt, a supervisor at the ACS call center, says employees often have difficulty understanding the jargon in insurance policies. Even human-resources personnel may not fully understand all the intricacies of a policy when briefing a new employee. Coverage that seems generous when you are healthy — eight annual doctor visits or three radiation courses — quickly proves insufficient if you find yourself really sick.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we really have hard time conceiving of the worst case scenario happening to ourselves…  and have no way to conceive of the costs of medical care.

No one wants to think of what might happen were they diagnosed with cancer, and even if so, no one wants to complicate that picture with what it might cost to treat it. $1.5 million lifetime maximum? That’s more than some people might make in a lifetime. How can people conceive of medical treatments that will reach that threshold?

Health “Insurance” is not designed to allow us to care for or health, it’s designed to make money while providing a false sense of security. The idea that this industry is somehow vital to our well being as a country, because of the wonders of the free market, is offensive to the extreme. This industry exists to fill a void left vacant for too long, and make a profit while. They are not interested in the actual well being of their customers, and to believe otherwise seems exceptionally myopic.

The Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed with unalienable rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” An argument could be made that the first and third of these depend upon the physical and mental well being of an individual. The Declaration goes on to say “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men”.

To secure the right of life and pursuit of happiness, which could be said to depend on our well being, we institute governments. Right there, in our founding principles is the case for universal, government funded health care. It doesn’t say that to secure our rights we create markets (free or otherwise),  but that’s always the oppositions answer: Let the market take care of it.

Newsflash! The market brought us to where we are, with money flowing away from the people to corporations who used some of that money to peddle influence to ensure that more money flows away from people to corporations. Health care is not the only sector to which this applies, of course, but it is, right now, the most significant.

So, I do hope that whatever shape reform takes there is something that undermines the primacy of private insurers in our health care sector. When government leaves them a different niche to fill, they are welcome to do so. For now, they need to cease being an obstacle to universal coverage (not insurance) that will ensure that the US has a healthy population with which to compete in the global marketplace.

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