Mar 132008

Disclaimer – I am not in the health care industry.  I am not an economist.  I have done no number-crunching on the realistic likelihood that what I am about to propose would work or not.  This is simply a thought I’ve had in regards to the “health care crisis” in the United States. 

Why can’t the government act as one giant company, representing the citizens of the United States, and use their resources to negotiate health care deals with major insurance companies?  Well, actually…I know they can, and that they do.  Medicare?  Medicaid?  That’s basically what they are doing there.  When someone is on one of these programs they actually have health insurance through a private insurer.  Thing is, the government pays for that.  What if they just gave us the ability to purchase those health care plans on our own dime, and gave our employers the option of paying those costs (or a part of them) for us instead of negotiating their own deals with the big insurance companies? 

These plans should in no way be mandatory, with the following exception – If you don’t have insurance and you go to a hospital, you have the option of signing up for a plan on the spot.  If you choose not to do so, whatever unpaid costs you have for your hospital stay are deducted from your taxes at the end of the year. 

The way I see it – Lots of money ends up going into the private sector (insurance companies), creating jobs and strengthening our economy.   A larger percentage of the population has access to health care, allowing them to get treated for illnesses instead of letting them worsen to the point that they have to be hospitalized.  When people DO end up in the hospital, a larger percentage of them are covered by insurance so the Hospital actually ends up getting paid for the services they render.  Hospitals end up having more money and are able to afford better levels of care, and taxpayers aren’t called upon to cover those unpaid medical costs as often.  An overall healthier population increases productivity across the board as people with lower paying jobs (the folks who may be at the bottom of the class system but frequently end up doing the jobs that keep the rest of us going) don’t get sick as often and miss work.   Due to the fact that the insurance companies would be potentially negotiating for millions of new customers their rates would be fiercely competitive and would fall across the board, allowing private companies to offer even better health insurance benefits or pay them completely for their employees.

I want to be clear – I’m not talking about a subsidized program here.  I’m not talking about the government paying for these programs at all.  They could simply act as mediators between us and the insurance companies and handle the administrative end for us.  Hell, they could even roll the yearly benefits selection process into our tax returns.

Like I said – a completely uneducated thought, but a thought I had nonetheless. 

Edit – Another thought I just had.  This kind of system would allow individuals to stay on the same health care plan regardless of where they ended up working, so they had no lapse in benefits and no risk of being refused care by an insurance company due to pre-existing conditions.

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