When President Obama focused his efforts on overhauling the health insurance industry, I was excited. For too long, insurance companies were getting away with murder… literally. The problem is that Obamacare is focused on the wrong things, and it’s going to be a total economic disaster. Instead of health insurance competition increasing, which would cause decreased prices, it’s becoming over-regulated. The result is that the prices will become so unaffordable that the government will be forced to provide a total social health care solution. If we have learned anything, it is that the federal government cannot and should not do what the private industry does better.
The following is a type of health insurance overhaul based on five social and philosophical ideas, which will result in a more sensible, competitive, available health care program focused on prevention.
1. Detach health care from jobs
Obamacare has already caused two major problems. First, it’s forcing companies to provide health care coverage. While that may seem positive, the fact that many companies can’t afford it means that they are laying off their workforce or are cutting employee’s hours to part time (in order to be exempt). This is going to have an enormous negative economic impact on our society. Secondly, because it’s forcing companies to provide health care, it’s mandating what kind of care must be included. Many religious institutions are crying foul for being forced to provide certain care like abortion and birth control.
Here’s my question. Why is our health care attached to our work? Does that logically make any sense to anyone? I recognize that health care benefits were originally a way to lure employees to their company, but since it is so common, necessary, and now required, why are we still attaching it to businesses. Instead of burdening businesses with the cost of health care, which will result in lower pay and fewer jobs, why not alleviate businesses with the exorbitant costs of health care and attach it to something else more relevant? The other negative impact that attaching health care to businesses produces is less entrepreneurship. Instead of branching out to start-ups, small businesses, or to start a business, people will stick with companies because of the health care incentive, especially when they know they could not get an insurance company to cover them for an individual policy.
2. Attach health insurance to communities
When a group of people buys into a health care benefit plan, it causes the cost to lower. This is why it’s cheaper for businesses to offer health care than for an individual or family to buy coverage for themselves. However, the costs of the group plan increases when individuals take greater advantage of the benefit. No matter what, benefit members are going to absorb costs of health insurance companies, but groups will more readily see a correlation between use of the benefit and the cost.
This actually promotes a potential positive. If a group cost is affected by each other’s health, then the group will naturally act in a way that raises the healthiness of the environment in order to lower the cost of the insurance.
Since our health is often directly related to where we live, and where we live is broken into socio-economic grids, why not make health insurance based on where communities instead of businesses?
Just as our workplace offers a group plan, instead, our community, township, or city would offer a group plan or a few group plans for its citizens to buy into. What naturally would happen is that the cost of the insurance would be directly impacted by the people buying into the plan. Under this idea, there would be more government incentive to focus on cleaner water and air, better urban development, reduction in pollution, public safety, etc. Communities might even wish to enact ordinances such as a city wide smoking ban. If people realized and felt the impact of each other’s actions, it would most likely cause a positive change on the society.
3. Encourage community competition
The result of a plan that connects health care to where people live is that it makes communities, cities, and even states more competitive. Certain areas may cover some of the costs of an individual’s insurance, which would make the area more attractive to some. Some may include insurance and charge its citizens a tax. Some may not include any financial provision at all, which would lure people who are relatively healthy.
The result of this change would increase an area’s competitiveness, and it would immediately highlight areas where there ought to be more and better government intervention. If a certain area has a high cost of insurance, it would be due to a problem with health in that area. Communities and governments could find out where that problem is and focus on efforts to improve the health of that area, causing insurance premiums to decrease.
4. Allow citizens to decide the available group plans
The problem with health insurance companies is that it’s tied to politics. The large insurance companies give enormous campaign contributions and in turn, receive regulatory benefits. Many times this results in legislation aimed at preventing competition, which causes prices to increase.
What’s positive about fewer health insurance companies is that it results in more people buying into a group plan. By doing that, it lowers the costs of premiums. However, too little competition means that companies can drive up prices.
The challenge is this: how can we achieve a better group rate by having less companies but encourage competition by opening up access for health insurance companies to compete? The answer is by allowing citizens to vote on a limited number of health insurance companies that they can buy into.
Here’s how it would work: Every two years, a list of health insurance companies is put on the ballots. Before elections, the local area releases the details of each insurance company and the plans that they offer, including the costs. Within those two years, costs would remain the same, and people would be locked into their health insurance coverage (except upon moving or a change in the family). Every two years, that local area would vote on which group plans would be best for them, and the top two or three would be selected and offered to that community. This solves the problem of greater competition in that every health insurance company is eligible to be on the ballot. And this creates a better financial incentive by forcing the citizens to buy into a group.
This will also increase health insurance companies, as some will want to target certain age groups, some will want to target certain socio-economic areas, and it may even result in an increase of non-profit health insurance companies aimed at helping impoverished and unhealthy areas.
5. Better government regulation
In order for this system to work, people need to see how their lifestyles (and the lifestyles of those around them) affect the prices of their health insurance premiums. Governments would mandate that health insurance companies release general information about the usage of health care in the area. They would also release data specific to disease. This way governments and communities could understand high rates of illnesses like cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, flu outbreaks, and target specific prevention. If a community has a high rate of cancer, the community ought to know so that they can determine what the cause might be. If there’s a high rate of HIV outbreaks in a community, the community ought to know so that they can emphasize prevention. Again, this promotes competition between communities, cities, and states and is aimed at preventative health care.
One of the positives of Obamacare is that it offers more access to health insurance, and it prevents health insurance companies from denying claims based on pre-existing conditions. In this case, companies could not deny individuals in a community group plan and also could not deny claims based on pre-existing conditions.
Government regulation should focus on ensuring that health care companies are adhering to laws and fulfilling promises. Health insurance companies save money by denying claims; however, this often leads to further illness and death. The government should act as an enforcer to ensure that the health insurance companies are living up to their end of the deal. They also should offer to make claim disputes public in some way. By doing this, the public would be better informed as to issues with insurance companies and be informed as to which insurance companies would better serve their communities.
While many of these ideas need to be further developed, I believe that these five concepts will help overhaul our health insurance crisis in a way that makes it more sensible, more available, more affordable, and focused on prevention.