The health care reform debate is experiencing a significant increase in volume and vociferousness, including increased momentum toward a government take-over of the U.S. health care system. The two most often cited issues by proponents of health care reform are: 1) runaway costs, not only in delivery of care but also insurance; and 2) the millions of uninsured Americans.
There is nothing inaccurate about either of these debate points. For almost a decade, insurance costs have averaged double-digit increases every year. And there are somewhere between 40 - 50 million people living in the United States without health care insurance. Let’s break these points down and uncover alternative solutions to a government take-over of our health care system and one sixth of our economy.
Issue 1: Dealing with the cost
State mandates: The cost of health care insurance is inflated in many states by mandates for various medical procedures that should be optional but are required elements of a basic policy. What if your automobile budget restricted you to buying a car that provides only basic transportation, without fancy accessories, but the state you live in only allows “tricked out” cars to be sold? You now have a personal transportation crisis since you can’t afford to buy the car you need. Mandates, by state or federal governments, are not the answer to lowering health care costs.
Association health plans: Unlike big businesses and unions, small businesses cannot purchase health care insurance across state lines, thereby limiting access to the group discounts available to national organizations they may belong to. Allowing small businesses to buy health care insurance through chambers of commerce or trade groups would lower costs and allow more companies to provide insurance for their employees.
Health savings accounts: Essentially, these are IRAs for health care. You purchase a major medical policy with a high deductible, which is covered by annual investments up to that deductible amount into a tax-deferred account (like an IRA). Over time, any of the investment you don’t use for health care still belongs to you and you can even pass it on to your heirs. HSAs train people to become health care consumers instead of just patients.
Issue 2: Millions of uninsured
Illegal immigrants: Part of this number includes 12-20 million illegal immigrants. Whatever we decide to do about providing care for these people, our health care system should not be hijacked by including these numbers in the argument.
Young Americans: Recent research conducted by the state of Massachusetts showed that young people – who believe they are bullet-proof and will live forever –refuse to buy insurance even when they can afford it. A high percentage of America’s uninsured fit this profile and should not be included as reform evidence.
All the rest: The rest of the uninsured are Americans who truly can’t afford insurance. But we already have plenty of government programs to cover them. Even if we want to do more for this group, we can do that without converting everyone else to a Euro-style universal health care system.
Finally, we already know the government can’t run a health care system - look at Medicare and Medicaid. Both are insolvent, primarily due to government ineptitude, waste and inefficiencies. Small businesses need market solutions for our health care challenges. A single-payer, universal, government-mandated and controlled health care system will not be good for small businesses.
Recently, I talked about this on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, with one of the most important experts on market-based health care solutions, Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute. Grace-Marie is also a long-time member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen to what this world-class expert has to say. And, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts.