Healthcare in America

As someone who has either owned small companies or worked for small companies, I have had to frequently change health care plans. Sometimes my healthcare was earned as an employee benefit, sometimes I joined a small group plan as the principal of my own company, and sometimes I participated in a COBRA program through a former employer.

With this background, it is fair to say I know what it takes to get health insurance coverage in America. For nearly 30 years now, two things have always been true: I have never been unemployed, and I have never been without a quality PPO health insurance plan. And it hasn’t been easy.

The problem with Obama’s health care plan – similar to pretty much everything Obama is doing – is that it is aimed at helping anyone but people like me. Why is this? Because I have been responsible. I have always found work, often without benefits, and I have always made sure to purchase quality health insurance – one way or another. And there is no way Obama’s health care plan is going to make health insurance better and cheaper than the health insurance I currently have – this despite the fact that as a healthy 51 year old Californian, without COBRA (which will expire soon, yet again), I will have to pay $750 per month for a good PPO. If Obama’s plan is enacted, I will have no choice but to enroll in a rationed publically administered health insurance plan. Individual plans for a person my age, if they are available at all, will cost more than $750 per month, probably much more.

There are a host of reasons why healthcare insurance has come to this juncture – but most of all we are at this juncture because of what one might call “the great leveling” is happening. That is to say, the bell curve of individual economic status is flattening, with more and more poor people at one extreme and more and more rich people at the other – and the legislation and regulations (or lack of legislation and deregulation, it depends) that have faciliated this trend have been bi-partisan.

Those of us who are too well off to collect free benefits, yet too poor to be able to pay punitive prices for insurance coverage (along with electricity, water, education, transportation and housing – all being made more expensive in the name of social justice and the climate “crisis”) – are having everything we’ve worked for systematically confiscated through higher taxes and fees and regulated prices. It is sad to see mainstream media commentators – most of them quite wealthy – describing those who criticize this trend as merely “fringe” groups. All we ask for are reforms that first recognize and reward responsible behavior before enacting policies that will make us pay more for the “disadvantaged” and “exploited” classes.

The reality of healthcare in America is that everyone does get healthcare. If people aren’t able to afford health coverage, they go to emergency rooms. This isn’t perfect but it works. There are no easy answers, and nobody is suggesting reforms shouldn’t be on the table, but it is getting very tiresome to have our President – through his proposals – pretend that personal financial stability achieved through hard work and merit are only accidents of privilege, and therefore actively design policies that punish us.

American healthcare reform should start by eliminating barriers facing those who are willing and able to pay for quality healthcare, and see what that does for overall costs. The results might be quite positive for everyone. For example:

(1)  Allow individuals the same tax deductions for their health insurance premium payments as businesses receive.

(2)  Make it easier for associations and organizations to offer group health insurance plans, instead of only favoring companies who may or may not provide an individual a job for life.

(3)  Eliminate interstate barriers to health insurance companies so they can operate and compete in every state.

(4)  Enact tort reform so malpractice lawsuits are reined in. Not only do the inordinately inflated premium payments increase costs, but far more significant are the costs of over-testing and over-treating as a precaution against lawsuits.

These four reforms would be a good start towards improving America’s health care system. The idea that government should launch a “competing” public health care option sounds good, but in reality this would kill the market for individual insurance. The only private insurance plans left would be those enjoyed by employees of large private companies, and – ironically – by public sector employees. Entrepreneurs would be forced into the government program.

Maybe someday, when labor unions in the public sector (along with their “work rules”) are declared illegal, and merit (instead of seniority or belonging to a “protected status group”)  is the sole criteria for better pay and career advancement, and public sector employees get social security and medicare when they are retired, just like the rest of us, it might be possible, even palatable, to create to a publically administered health insurance plan to compete with private sector plans. Maybe then we can trust the public sector to take on more projects, but not before.

There is absolutely nothing the Obama administration is doing with respect to health care, financial reform, or environmental “crisis” management, that is doing anything for the small business, or any true entrepreneur who still respects the meaning of the word. To-date, President Obama has the most anti-entrepreneurial administration in the history of America, because his policies – however well intentioned – reward irresponsibility and indolence, and punish individual industry and initiative.

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