Should we provide guaranteed health care coverage for 40-million American’s without it, or dramatically lower its cost and access for 306-million Americans? We cannot do both. President Obama and Congress seem intent on trying to do so.
The argument of guaranteeing health care coverage to all Americans can be taken back to our inception. July 4, 1776 our founding fathers signed a document identifying as an inalienable right “life” and “the pursuit of happiness”. The argument being that you can’t have “life” without some form of health, and even if “you can live in poor health” and have “Life”, then you are inhibiting the possibility of “the pursuit of happiness”. Because how happy can one be when subjected to a life of poor health? But since that hot summer 233 years ago no government action has been taken to assure health care for all its citizens, right?
It is unlawful to deny care to needy patients in hospital emergency rooms across fifty states based on there ability to pay. And in most states there is no distinction between citizens and non-citizens. Indigents, illegal aliens, wealthy, poor, all can go to a hospital emergency room and be treated. It’s important to note that having a poor family in an emergency room because they have all contracted colds is not fiscally responsible or beneficial for the overall good health of our citizenry. Emergency rooms in large cities are already crowded with such cases. And having an Emergency Room Doctor or Nurse treating a minor ailment or injury keeps that same medical provider from attending to those more seriously in need.
So the original question: Guarantee insurance coverage? Or lower the cost? All members of Congress should attend a college Economics 101 class or at least read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”. Because in this health care debate and in many other issues they clearly don’t know the basic rules of capitalism. Rule #1: Increased demand drives up prices. It’s an irrefutable law of economics. What’s gonna happen when over 40-million uninsured Americans suddenly have “free” health care? Do you think a few of them might go see a Doctor? Do you think those that are able to get in to see the Doctor might be found to need additional care of some kind? The answer to these questions is irrefutably YES. With this increased demand will come higher, probably much higher prices.
An aspect of the health care bills being debated separately in the House and in the Senate would require all employers to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. It would drive up unemployment tremendously.
Let us not forget that the majority of employed Americans work for small companies. Small companies employ less than 50 workers. I own one of those small companies. Recently I have been aggressively seeking to hire new sales representatives. Doing so would increase my company’s revenue and allow me to hire more people for more positions including secretaries, bookkeepers, studio recording engineers, etc. It would also eventually enable the business to garner enough revenue to provide better benefit packages including better health insurance coverage to all the employees.
If required to provide all these new employees with health insurance coverage my response is to not hire them. I’m fiscally responsible. As a business I can’t take on more expenses than are currently being generated. Alternatives might be for my business to borrow more to get the new hires started and hope revenues catch up with expenses and the loans get paid back. But by definition that increases my businesses and my personal risk. Why should I do that? And more important to this writing, why should any business owner do that? You can think of a few small business owners who might feel as I do, and decide not to hire people or even fire people already hired if faced with the burdensome increased costs of paying for health coverage that their business is not capable of sustaining.
Increased unemployment would then put increased pressure on social programs, including Medicare, further driving up the federal deficit. Getting back to Economics 101 an increased deficit has two effects in particular. One: it will drive up interest rates further reducing average Americans buying power and borrowing power. Two: It weakens the dollar against other foreign currencies. The inevitable result of a weaker dollar is inflation, again reducing average Americans ability to buy anything including health insurance. Then there are the inevitable increased taxes to pay for this new social program and the increased demand on it. That further limits available funds people have to buy what is already too expensive and getting more expensive. Are you beginning to see how all this works?
Obviously the goal of health care reform should be exclusively pointed to the one goal of driving down health care costs. President Obama is right about one thing. There is an awful lot of waste, inefficiency and even corruption in our current health care system. Fine, fix it.
The first step in reducing costs associated with getting our pills and our surgeries and our babies delivered is for Government to get out of the business. The number of requirements put on insurance companies providing health care coverage is suffocating. As just one example in most states employee benefits programs must include maternity and prenatal coverage to all employees even those 40, 50, and 60 years old who have no plans or ability to get pregnant. And maternity coverage is one of the most expensive aspects of health insurance coverage. Maternity coverage must be included in the average employed 55 year old’s health care plan because laws intended to prevent discrimination in hiring require that the same health care benefits available to your 20 and 30 year old workers, who need maternity coverage, be available to everyone.
There are many other examples of Government requirements that might have good intentions but ultimately drive up the cost of health care, and in driving up the cost make health care less available to the poor. How about the fact that you can’t take your insurance coverage with you from one employer to the next? How about the fact that insurance companies have to comply with 50 different lists of laws in 50 different states in order to make their products available. Do you think that has an effect on their bottom line and subsequently our costs?
Here’s one I’d like to see changed. As a small business owner I cannot organize with similarly sized small businesses, pool our resources, and buy health insurance coverage for my family at a discounted group rate. Why? The Government says “NO”.
During last year’s Presidential election campaign then Senator Obama said, “Obviously the best solution to the health care crisis is individualized coverage”. Unfortunately he didn’t stop there and finished by saying, “but unfortunately we’ve gone too far for that”.
Besides getting Government’s restrictive yokes off the health care insurance business the next step is to get health insurance and health care providers out of the pockets of those with the most money, i.e. Government and big business. Again Economics 101 says that the market dictates the value of any product or service. You may say your house is worth $500,000. But if no one is willing to pay that much, is it worth that much? No it's worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Big business and Government are the largest payers of health insurance premiums and health care costs in our country. Big business and Government are also the entities that have the most money. So being proper capitalists insurance companies and medical providers charge a lot for their services because big business and government heretofore have been able to foot the bill.
If Health Care reform provided incentives to insurance companies to write more individual insurance plans, and provided disincentives for writing corporate plans then more individual plans would be written. Fifty year old persons would not buy maternity coverage in their health plan and 20-year old persons would not buy geriatric care coverage. Costs would go down, more people would buy coverage, less people would be uninsured, less people would need Government to pay for their care, business would be free of the huge expense health care represents and subsequently be more profitable and be able to hire more people and offer their products or services at lower costs, lower costs for products and services would generate more spending which would pump up incomes, more incomes would increase tax revenues subsequently reducing the deficit.
This may sound too simple for some. But the laws of economics are nearly as irrefutable as the laws of gravity. All citizens and business owners should contact your Congressman and let them know what is currently being debated is dangerous and expensive. And let them know that there is a better alternative. The alternative for individual coverage over Government controlled health care is less expensive and ultimately more beneficial. And lastly it further insures that that last little “inalienable right” guaranteed under the Declaration of Independence is not lost to history. Or have you already forgotten about “Liberty”?