A Modest Proposal

Filed under:Miscellaneous — posted by Anwyn on June 19, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

Tonight I listened to my sister describe how the baby daughter of a friend of hers died after a prolonged illness, many hospital stays, and several surgeries. For the funeral, the parents requested, in lieu of flowers, donations to offset their medical expenses.

I agree with those who think that the combination of medical fees and medical insurance has gone off the rails in this country, but state control is not the way to fix it. Instead, why not make medical insurance a whole hell of a lot more like car insurance? First, divorce health insurance forever from employment. We don’t get car insurance as an employment benefit. It’s compelled by the state, but we still pay for out ourselves. Why should medical coverage be so wedded to employment status? Something like the current health savings accounts could be used to put money away to continue paying for coverage in case of reduced income or loss of job.

We also don’t use auto insurance to get our oil changed, our cars washed, or our tires rotated. We likewise shouldn’t use health insurance for routine doctor visits like checkups or to see about a winter illness that drags on too long. Think $100 is too much for an office visit? Try seeing how much those routine visits would drop in price if people quit coming in so much because those visits were no longer covered. Then insurance, now on a supply-and-demand system that lowered premiums for high deductibles, etc., like auto insurance pricing, could be used to pay for catastrophic, unforeseen “car crashes”–real ones, causing serious injury, or debilitating diseases that require much treatment and hospitalization. Planning to have a child whose routine visits will run every three months or so? Beef up your coverage beforehand if you don’t want to pay for those routine visits at the time they occur.

The added flexibility and cost savings could then be used in possible scenarios for state subsidies of the poor and unemployed. Keep the flexibility of the market. Socialized medicine will be the death knell, figuratively and literally, for a major part of our way of life in the U.S.


  1. I don’t claim to know what the answer to our current situation (OK, sometimes I do), but I think you’re exactly right about the way health “insurance” is perceived and used in this country. Insurance is supposed to be for the surprises in life.

    Of course, when I say stuff like that at family gatherings and whatnot, I’m looked upon as if I have suddenly sprouted horns. Odd that. I sprouted horns years ago. I’m told my insurance plan won’t cover their removal. Just as well.

    Comment by Allen — June 20, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  2. Allen: No worries. I find that my horns are very useful in getting people to see things my way, if only by sheer intimidation. : )

    Anwyn: I like your train of thought. However, due to the current restraints and limited access to basic prescription drugs like birth control and allergy meds, it is unrealistic to expect the general population to shell out the cost of an office visit for legitimate appointments with doctors.

    The real problem with the healthcare system in this country is not the insurance system, it is the lawsuits. Malpractice risk is one of the primary reasons for soaring healthcare costs and hence the soaring cost of coverage. An orthopedic surgeon once told me he would cut all of his fees in half if he didn’t have to carry malpractice insurance. Malpractice suits are so out of control that many communities are struggling to keep OB/GYNs to deliver babies because the statute of limitations on suing the doc that delivered your child is 18 years. It is our ridiculous and “sue happy” society that is partially to blame for the predicament we call healthcare in this country.

    Still, we are far better off than the socialists. At least I know if I need a major surgery, I don’t have to wait in line.

    Comment by thelmajoy — June 21, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  3. If by “limited access” you mean “requires a prescription,” I’m afraid I don’t consider it at all unreasonable or unrealistic for people to shell out for the cost of two doctor visits per year to keep those prescriptions current. It will certainly be more difficult to go *back* to that now that everybody’s used to paying $10 and letting insurance pick up the rest of the tab, but I still don’t consider it unrealistic. People adapt to what they have to, generally. Let’s say a person has two prescriptions they need to keep current, one mystery illness, one sprained ankle, and let’s say they’re conscientious enough to go in for a yearly checkup. That’s five appointments, except that they can get their allergy med re-prescribed at their checkup appointment, making four. Let’s say their GP is competent to assess their general health for purposes of prescribing the birth control–which, my last GP certainly wanted to do that double duty so that she wouldn’t lose my business to an OB-GYN. That cuts it to three. I still don’t consider that an unreasonable or unrealistic amount of money for somebody to shell out on a yearly basis.

    I’ve no doubt you’re right on about malpractice; however, if you want to talk “unrealistic,” thinking there could be a time when doctors wouldn’t have to carry that insurance at all, as your ortho said, is a bit of a pipe dream. Cutting it way down, though, is probably within the realm of possibility and definitely should be one ingredient in the process.

    Comment by Anwyn — June 21, 2007 @ 8:36 am

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