Our crazy health-insurance system
...We Americans got hooked on health insurance because the government did the insurance companies a favor during World War II. Wartime wage controls prohibited cash raises, so employers started giving noncash benefits, like health insurance, to attract workers. The tax code helped this along by treating employer-based health insurance more favorably than coverage you buy yourself. And state governments have made things worse by mandating coverage many people would never buy for themselves.
...We came to expect insurance to cover everything. That's the root of our problem. No one wants to pay for his own medical care. "Let the insurance company pay for it." But if companies pay, they will demand a say in what treatment is — and is not — permitted. Who can blame them?
...Imagine if your car insurance covered oil changes and gasoline. You wouldn't care how much gas you used, and you wouldn't care what it cost. Mechanics would sell you $100 oil changes. Prices would skyrocket.
That's how it works in health care. Patients don't ask how much a test or treatment will cost. They ask if their insurance covers it. They don't compare prices from different doctors and hospitals. (Prices do vary.) Why should they? They're not paying. (Although they do in hidden, indirect ways.)
In the end, we all pay more because no one seems to pay anything. It's why health insurance is not a good idea for anything but serious illnesses and accidents that could bankrupt you. For the rest, we should pay out of our savings.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Stossel on Health Insurance
John Stossel has written another nice piece about the problems with health insurance. As he points out, the problems are created by government policies and won't be solved by more government interference in health care. Here are some excerpts: