Insurance companies serve a very important function in our society. The purpose of insurance is to share risk. Risk is the amount of economic loss that someone is willing to assume in an activity. For instance, a bank would not loan money for the purpose of buying a house, unless the house was protected against losses such as fire, wind and other perils. That protection is provided by a Homeowner’s policy.
A loan to purchase an automobile would not be available unless the car was insured for losses by theft or collision. That protection is provided by an auto policy.
Health insurance is a policy that shares the risk of losses caused by injuries or illness. A share of the risk is assumed by the individual through a deductible or co-pay. In-other-words, if someone visits the doctor, that individual may be required to pay the first $15 or $20 of the visit. The health insurance company assumes the risk of the remainder of the cost.
That shared risk comes about through an exchange of ‘consideration’. Consideration is value. The insured pays a premium in exchange for the promise of the insurance company to pay certain costs associated with the insured’s health care. Which brings us to the controversy surrounding the government’s efforts to institute what some call universal health care.
No matter what side of the argument you are on, in favor or against universal health care, one issue has been settled. President Obama stated publicly that it is impossible to insure the ‘uninsured’ without additional costs. So, the idea that this will be a ‘deficit neutral’ policy has been debunked by the administration itself. Either taxes go up to pay for the program, or health care will have to be rationed to keep costs neutral, or bring them down.
In response to the public out-cry about a government health care program, the administration has called the insurance companies villains. After all, insurance companies exclude preexisting conditions for some period of time when an individual enrolls (however that is not always the case with group policies), and insurance companies are making a ‘profit’.
Think about the concept of risk and preexisting conditions. An individual has a home that has been damaged by fire. Would a homeowner’s insurance company now write a policy that would cover the repairs to home caused by the preexisting fire? Of course not! That is not shared risk, that is bad business.
An individual has a preexisting health condition, say diabetes. Purchasing a policy that would exclude the treatment for diabetes for a limited period of time (usually two years), now results in a shared risk. The health insurance company will cover the person for other perils, and if that individual pays the premiums over time, that exclusion regarding the preexisting condition is then dropped.
Is it possible for the government to insure everyone in the United States and force insurance companies to provide policies without regard to preexisting conditions? It is possible, but not without driving the cost of health-care way up. After all, the money to pay the doctors and hospitals have to come from somewhere and President Obama stated that ‘We are out of money’. Since the government doesn’t earn money, its only source of revenue is taxes.
Insurance companies are being cast as the bad guy since companies make a profit. Which do you prefer, companies that are well run that make a profit, or a company like General Motors that required billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail the company out? A profit is what allows companies to expand services and provide jobs. Companies that fail to make a profit, go out-of-business.
The government not only fails to make a profit, as a well run business entity should, it runs at a deficit. The latest example is Cash for Clunkers. Not only was taxpayer money used to subsidize auto sales, now car dealers are complaining that the government is not sending the checks for the Clunkers that were promised. It appears that many buyers will have lost their old cars and now face repossession of the new cars purchased since the money for the program did not actually exist.
This does not bode well for a government run health care system.
Doctors and hospitals must practice defensive medicine. People will sue for anything. Tort lawyers use a ‘shot-gun’ approach when filing a malpractice lawsuit. All doctors, nurses, technicians and hospitals involved in a case are named as a defendant, whether that party had any actual responsibility for the claimed injury and damage.
We need a loser pay system, which provides that anyone who brings a lawsuit and loses, is required to pay the other side’s attorney fees and expenses. That would do away with most frivolous lawsuits and bring the costs of health care down.
Big Government Solution
Government should be required to live within its means. It does not, and the government, not insurance companies, is the villain in this scenario.
The founding fathers did not foresee a large, powerful centralized government. That is what was the war of independence against England was all about. The US Constitution delegated specific powers to the Federal Government, and it does not specify taking over any private sector industry.
Medicare and Medicaid are government health care programs on the verge of collapse. Even President Obama admits Medicare cannot be sustained. No program can be sustained when it runs at a deficit and all government programs run at a deficit.
Universal Health Care will run at a deficit from day one and that is just bad business.