It’s always nice to receive good news, and the government seems to be full of it these days. We received word just this morning that according to the Department of Labor there was no rise in the cost of living during the past year. This was really good news.
In fact, I was so relieved and elated by this news that I called up my health insurance company and explained to Betty that the forty percent increase in my premiums must have been a mistake because the Department of Labor said so. Betty is a very jolly lady and I’m pretty sure she is still laughing.
I was sure, though, that this declaration by the Department of Labor would carry some weight so I called the number for the company that delivers our propane. They recently filled the tank and I was certain they would want to know about this Comsumer Price Index thing and how it was not to cost any more to live this year than last. Paul was not so amused.
Still, I wanted to share our good fortune so I called up a friend of mine and said, “Tom, guess what, there was no rise in the cost of living during the past year! Isn’t that great news?”
And Tom, he likes numbers, he said, “Well let’s see, there’s over four million more people out of work than there was at this time last year. So, if you got nothing to live on and the cost of living is going to be the same then, well, at least you can budget for it. So yeah, I guess that is really good news.” Tom’s kind of sarcastic like that.
Still, I knew there had to be someone who would appreciate hearing this news. So, I called up my Congressman, and I said, “Hey Honorable, did you hear that there was no rise in the cost of living during the past year?”
And he said, “I say, I say, I say, that’s right boy! I worked hard this past year to keep down the rise in the cost of living. It was a constant and exhausting battle against overwhelming odds, but I fought with all my might and in the end the cost of living did not rise. I did it for the people. No need to thank me. You’re welcome. Don’t forget to vote. Are you registered?”
Finally, someone who truly appreciated the good news.
So, I got a call from my health insurance agent this morning. It was a bit of an eye-opener. When my current policy renewed this year the premium increased by nearly forty percent. I was expecting an increase as I turned fifty recently, but forty percent seemed a little extreme. I deal with an independent agent who has been very good to watch out for me, so when I received a letter from him suggesting we apply to a different company where the premium would likely be less I was all for it.
But first, a little background. I turned fifty ten months ago. I have been fortunate and blessed with good health most of my life. My blood sugar is good; my cholesterol is within acceptable limits; I take no prescription medications on a regular basis. Most of the medical services I have required have been the result of injury or accident, and those have been relatively few. My most recent episode was a little over a year ago when I suddenly found myself in a wrestling match with a kidney stone that eventually had to be forcibly removed. The horror stories are all true. All this is to say that I have no serious health issues.
So, we applied to the other insurance company hoping and expecting to be accepted at a lesser premium. The call this morning was to let me know that while they would insure me, the premium would be even higher than my current policy because of my little kidney stone friend. While they didn’t actually refuse me coverage, they did effectually price me out of the market because I have apparently become a higher risk. So, now I am faced with the same dilemma many are facing. If I choose curtain number one I get to pay thousands of dollars this year for basic medical insurance that I may not need. If I choose curtain number two I risk everything we have worked decades for should I suddenly need insurance that I don’t have.
On the one hand, I despise the very idea of the government taking over our health care. The government is lousy at running things, and the thought of a bureaucrat deciding which medical services I am entitled to receive really perturbs me awfully.
On the other hand, the insurance industry is not going to put patients before profits. It’s a business, and the business of business is profit. Thus, the dilemma: neither the open market nor government-run healthcare is going to provide a real solution.
So, here’s my super simplistic suggestion.
Let me preface this with this statement: I do not presume to understand the intricacies of the health insurance industry; nor do I comprehend the complications of government. I’m a simple man and I like simple solutions. Basically, adding more soap to dirty bathwater is not going to make it clean again. So, with that being said here is my offering.
Make it fair to the people. Base insurance premiums on age. Everyone of a certain age, regardless of the state of their health, pays the same amount. I’ll leave the amounts to the bean-counters, but basically our premiums would start out low, increase through our more productive years, and then decrease as we enter the later years of life.
Make it competitive. Let the insurance companies compete on services. The more or better service they provide the more business they get. Instead of competing for more and more dollars let them compete for the same dollars.
Make it optional. If you don’t want health insurance, fine, but don’t expect heroic measures when something does happen. If you can’t work to pay for it we’ll support you. If you won’t work to pay for it you’re a burden we don’t need. Get off the boat.
I know this is a very simplistic plan. I know there are many other points that would have to be considered. But, our government is out of control and it’s not going to rein itself in. It will continue to spiral out of control until we put a stop to it or it topples and takes us all down with it.
The insurance industry is equally out of control because it has for so long successfully evaded control. It has grown and expanded unchecked and unfettered because it has made itself necessary. Insurance is not rocket science. It can’t be or it could not have existed during much simpler times. It began as a very simple concept: responsibility in exchange for value. But, the insurance industry has managed the system so that it accepts less and less responsibility in exchange for more and more value.
The current healthcare insurance system is overly complicated and broken. The bill presently under consideration in Washington will only make matters worse. The future, if we truly have one, lies in simplicity. The success of any endeavor lies in the ability of those involved to understand, envision and embrace the process. The only purpose served by complications is to conceal truth.