Health Care

Since 1992, I’ve had two auto insurance policies and 19 different healthcare policies! I believe healthcare should be consumer-driven: individuals, not employers, should own their own policies and they need to understand the costs of healthcare and have the ability to shop around for the policy that works best for them. I also believe insurance was meant to be a stop loss, not a free credit card! That’s why health care is my signature issue.

Imagine for a moment if auto insurance were like medical insurance. Your employer would pay for it and it would cover all auto related expenses. Every time you went to the gas pump, the tire dealer, or the oil change place, you would just have to pay a small co-payment and the service or product you needed would be yours. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? All your driving needs covered in one simple plan and all you have to do is make sure you have a job that offers this vital benefit. In fact, one of the great things about this plan is you don’t have to get the cheap gas anymore. You can get the premium. And why bother going to a service station that makes you pump your own gas? No doubt with this wonderful benefit many stations will start offering full service. And why bother going to Costco for discount tires? Just make a few calls and find the tire that’s really right for your car, tell the store to come get your car, put on the new tires, fully detail the car inside and out. Hey, it’s all the same co-pay so why not?
There is a wrinkle though. You better make sure you have a job that covers auto insurance. For some reason under this scheme the price of driving has gone up dramatically. All the gas stations have moved to full service stations with immaculate bathrooms, hot towels and a full-time attendant to see to your every need (how in the world did we ever get by with those filthy stations you could only get into with a key attached to a cinder block is beyond me) and the price of gasoline is now $15 per gallon. Costco has long since got out of the tire business and tires are expensive enough that some of you might seriously consider just buying a new car when your tires wear out. There are still a few brave people who change their own oil, but this is becoming increasingly rare since used oil was classified as a toxic substance that could only be handled by licensed professionals and finding oil on the black market is becoming a very risky proposition.

Luckily some forward thinking states like California are addressing this crisis and providing auto insurance for those who can’t afford to pay. Many states are also mandating that all employers provide basic auto coverage. These stripped down plans may not cover auto detailing, but they do cover gasoline and new tires and basic car washes. After all, being able to drive in today’s society is certainly a basic human right. Isn’t it?

Sounds pretty far-fetched doesn’t it? But a study of the history of health insurance shows far more similarity to the above story than we should ever feel comfortable with. With the advent of comprehensive coverage paid for by employers, we the consumers of health care are completely detached from the cost, and in many cases, the need for a wide variety of health care products and services. The goal we should be striving for is just the opposite of what I suggested at the beginning of this article. We should make health insurance more like auto insurance. Specifically, we should pay for routine and minor medical expenses out of our own pocket. Health insurance should kick in when we have a major medical problem, much like auto insurance kicks in when we have some kind of accident. This will cause us to be more aware of what health care is costing us--making us more informed and discriminating consumers. This will ultimately lead to lower cost health care with no loss in positive outcomes.