View Comments | Print This Post |
by Rachel Alexander | October 1st, 2007
The healthcare problem cannot be fixed by requiring employers to provide healthcare, and any politician who offers such a simple solution is lying.
Current proposals to fix healthcare are focusing on the wrong part of the problem. Requiring more employers to provide low-cost healthcare coverage is just a band-aid, not a solution. Most small businesses can't afford to provide healthcare coverage for their employees at today's going rates; it would put many of them out of business. Placing this problem on the backs of employers creates more problems of its own. Let's take a step back. Why is there this insistence that employers must be required to provide health insurance, where is the correlation between employers and health insurance? There isn't much of one. Why not require pharmacies to provide health insurance, or health clubs, or banks?
Americans have grown increasingly accustomed to having the best healthcare in the world, and are beginning to see it as a necessity right up there with food, clothing and shelter. With Americans' high standard of living, elevating healthcare to the status of a need could be realistically accommodated to some extent (at the speed we're discovering new treatments, this could present an additional problem of figuring out where to draw the line at what should be considered necessity versus speculative). The problem is thanks to the media, Hollywood, and advertisers, Americans also insist upon having other things that are clearly wants, not needs. Cell phones, hi-speed internet access, cable TV, fake nails, big-screen TVs, brand-new cars. The average American insists on having all of those things, then complains they can't afford health insurance. You never hear anyone saying that maybe Americans should control their materialistic spending and then they would have money to afford healthcare.
Exacerbating the healthcare problem is that costs are too high because of government regulation. Requirements that certain types of treatment be included drives up the costs for everyone. For example, the benefit of requiring annual pap smears for women is dubious yet it is required to be fully funded by health insurance, resulting in unnecessary doctor's visits which easily cost in the hundreds of dollars. Those visits are paid for by insurance companies – which then spread their cost around to everyone else. A study came out just last week which found that annual required physical check-ups are not necessary for much of the population.
Another unnecessary expense is incurred by the requirement that patients see a doctor prior to receiving certain routine prescriptions like antibiotics. So even if you know you come down with bacterial bronchitis once a year, and you recognize the symptoms, you still have to come in for a full visit with a doctor in order to obtain a prescription to purchase antibiotics. Antibiotics can be bought in Mexico for a few dollars without a prescription.
Another example is with routine prescriptions, patients are required to come in every few months for a "check-up" (which is usually little more than a $200 visit for a minute of gabbing) just to renew those prescriptions. Instead of taking a more realistic approach, our regulated approach results in the cost of that doctor's visit being spread to everyone else who purchases insurance, and in the case of the uninsured, their costs are borne by the taxpayers.
Trial lawyers have helped create this situation, by suing doctors for every imaginable dreamed-up scenario. Consequently, doctors are afraid to provide services without going through numerous extra hoops, which translates into extra costs. The trial lawyers are one of the most powerful lobbyists of Congress (and one of the top contributors to the Democrat Party), and so they make it almost impossible to get any kind of tort reform passed limiting these kinds of lawsuits. No wonder most lawyers are quick to point out they are not trial lawyers (or criminal defense lawyers, for other reasons).
If we can move past the simple rhetoric that starts with the false premises that employers must be responsible for health insurance, and acknowledge that it is government regulation that is responsible for increasing the cost of healthcare, then we'll be able to make healthcare affordable. We need to change Americans' attitudes so they understand the difference between a need versus a want, and also realize that unlimited healthcare is not a need but at some point turns into a want. Once these changes are accomplished, Americans will be able to shop for affordable healthcare tailored to their actual needs instead of relying upon government to force an unrealistic one-size-fits-all mandate on employers.