Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
We have experienced an increased number of uninsured patients for the past 16 years as insurance premiums have escalated and employers have been reducing and eliminating medical insurance benefits as part of the employment package. In 1990, 34.4 million Americans were uninsured. At that time, 85% of the uninsured patients were members of a family with a working adult.
Today, that number is 46.6 million, according to a new Census Bureau report. This represents 15.9% of our population up from 15.6% of our population in 2004 representing an increase of 1.3 million in the last 2 years. The number of workers with no health insurance rose from 26.5 million to 27.3 million. Nearly all the increase in uninsured was among working adults.
Do you think we need a creative innovative solution to ensure that all Americans have affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage? You bet!
Congress has so far failed to reach a consensus on how to even approach the problem.
Our difficulty is we have an elected Congress that professes to support the publics’ vested interest but in reality is swayed by vested interests’ political contributions. This is the reason they are in a State of Denial about everything including medical care of our population. America does great when the crisis is overwhelming. When the crisis subsides we resort to our highly developed short attention span and ignore our problems. We leave ourselves vulnerable to be taken advantage of by stakeholders who are protecting their vested interests.
What should we be focusing on?
1. As the price of insurance has increased and out of pocket payment for the employed has increased, the price of coverage has exceeded the price the employers can afford.
2. People working and not covered by employer provided health insurance have to pay for health care premiums with after tax dollar, while their employers pay for employee health insurance with pre tax dollars.
3. Evolving tax laws and employee benefit laws are causing employers to act in ways that cause the employer to provide fewer benefits to the employee. The biggest impact is felt by moderate to low income families. They are priced out of the market. If they get sick, they figure they can get medical care paid for by their community. The result is an increase in economic pressure on the individual and the community.
In light of this the facilitator stakeholders try to protect their envisioned vested interests at the expense of the patients and society. Policy makers have proposed to force everyone to buy insurance. The goal is to force the employer to buy insurance for the employee, or force the uninsured to buy insurance or go on Medicaid. The State of Massachusetts just passed a law mandating insurance and guarantying insurance for all.
It seems to me all of these proposals ignore real reason people do not buy insurance on their own in the first place.
They cannot buy reasonably priced insurance on a before tax basis. The patient is disadvantaged by an expensive and defective third party payer insurance system that does not permit them to control their healthcare dollar.
A Medical Saving Account system in a Price Transparent environment cures all these defects. Real insurance would be sold to individuals using after tax dollars in a freely competitive environment. The competitive environment would not be price manipulated by the insurance industry as the Medicare Part D benefit is. People would have an economic motivation to purchase insurance and keep themselves healthy. If someone had a chronic illness and if they avoided the complications of disease they could be rewarded economically.
Families on Medicaid could be motivated in the same way with the government providing the same or similar subsidies. The cost of care to State governments would be less than it is today. However, we would be empowering to the Medicaid family to make independent decisions rather than demoralizing these families in the present system of care rationing.
Americans yearn to be free and make free choices. We are not a dumb people even though our education system is crumbling. We need enlightened leadership not imprisoned by our hierarchical bureaucracy. I believe it is going to be up to the population of 40-50 year olds to step forward and say “we are sick and tired of this and we do not want to take it anymore.”