Health insurance companies are in business to make money. Like all free market businesses, they charge as much as the market will bear and work diligently to minimize expenses, all for the benefit of their executives and stockholders. They have no incentive to make sure their policy holder's health care needs are met. In fact, the opposite is true. The fewer claims they pay the more money they make. Policy holders are often denied services they need and denied re-imbursements to which they should be entitled.
If we were treated this way by a store or a restaurant we would just go somewhere else. With health insurance, most of us don't have that option. Most Americans who have health insure get it through their employer. Those so fortunate have little or no choice in the health care plan they get. Even the best of employers choose plans based mostly on cost, not on the level of benefits or quality of service. This greatly limits the freedom of choice that the opponents of health care reform go on and on about.
I'm not sure how the employer based health insurance system evolved but does it really make sense? We don't expect our employers to provide us with housing or food or transportation. So why then healthcare? Removing that burden from employers would level the playing field and allow them to better compete in the world economy, creating and preserving more jobs in America.
What do we do instead? We need a health care system that provides the same high quality care to all Americans regardless of their employment status or personal wealth. This will only be accomplished though some involvement of the public sector. Currently, we depend on the public sector for our national defense, education, and other services, so why not a basic and universal need like healthcare?
We've all heard the criticisms of the health care systems in Canada, England, France and most other developed counties. However, their citizens don't have to worry about having their life savings wiped away by a catastrophic injury or illness. We should be able to pick the best of what works from all those systems of care, and build a solution that is uniquely American. How do we pay for it? The same way we pay for it now, through taxes. A tax fairly applied and paid for by all Americans would be burdensome than the health insurance premium we pay now, or which are paid on our behalf by our employers.
Will it be easy? No, but when have we ever let that stop us. This is an area of our life that should not be left to the whims and profit incentives of the free market. Providing the same high quality health care to all Americans should be a national priority. It's the right thing to do.
Commentary by Jim Bishop
Carl Junction, MO