Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mandatory Insurance: A Gamble Against Ourselves

A kind of national health care has long been a dream of mine, but this bill prevents my dream from ever coming true. I had hoped the reform would mean limits to lawsuits and damages, protection for health care professionals to rely on their own good judgment without fear of punishment regardless of future results, establishment of systems similar to the VA, greater support for local non-profit hospitals, simple expansion of the public-funded clinics we already have in most towns, with the private system continuing unabated and parallel.

This bill assures those things will never happen.

Much the meteoric rise in medical treatment charges has been linked, by the medical community, to underwriting the costs of doctors not being fully reimbursed by Medicare and the rising costs of processing insurance claims and paying malpractice premiums. Certainly it is a fact that as the percentage of Americans with insurance has grown, so has the end-user cost
of medical care.

In the mid 1970s, I was hospitalized for a week, requiring transfusions. I didn't have insurance. My final bills, all totalled, were about equal to a month's wages in our young household. Today, a week's hospitalization for the same illness could easily equal the value of my home - with absolutely no increase in quality of care.

I am hearing that some doctors have decided to stop accepting insurance of any kind, and to operate on a cash basis. That is a ray of hope, a silver lining, I think. Perhaps without the constant upward pressure created by the vaccuum of 3rd-party payers, medical doctors who cease relying on insurance payments for the bulk of their income can - like dentists, chiropractors, accupuncturists - return to setting their own fees based on their own actual costs and profit needs.

Do you remember when Texas first passed the mandatory automobile liability insurance law? We were told that it would greatly reduce the premiums we all paid, since risks and losses would be spread out among the citizenry. Instead, auto liability premiums have climbed precipitously, and only non-mandatory collision and optional comprehensive premiums have remained in reasonable and appropriate ranges.

I oppose this health care reform, mainly because I oppose mandatory insurance of any kind. I'm still angry that the first bailout was of AIG. Insurance began as a cooperative way for people to help each other, in cases of dire situations, such as fire burning down one's house or the untimely death of a family provider. Insurance has evolved into a gamble against ourselves, and a ruinous expense for businesses and citizens.

The proliferation of liability insurance is directly responsible for the rate of litigation growth we've seen in the past 20 years, which in itself assures the continued proliferation of liability insurance. If we add up the total of insurance premiums we are required to pay: homeowners (if mortgaged), automobile, business liability (if licensed or bonded), Social Security, FICA - it is shocking how much of our budgets go toward throwing the insurance dice and betting against our own selves.

And that is what this legislation does. It simply continues the process of obsessive pre-paid gambling that even conservatives have supported, in subscription bets against our own future, in a game the house always wins.

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