Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Place Your Bets, Take Your Chances. Or Not!

Insurance is like a casino game. The insured bets that the insurance company will pay off in the event of a loss or claim, and the insurer bets that it won’t. Even when the “house” loses, it can still cut its losses by arbitrarily and unilaterally adjusting the amount of its “bet” downward. Sometimes, it simply refuses to pay.

The problem with giving insurance companies any part in health care—or health care reform—is that for-profit corporations exist for one purpose only—to steal as much profit (c’mon, you didn’t expect me to say “earn,” did you?) as they can for their shareholders and to pay outrageous salaries and bonuses to their top executives. Terms like “conscience,” “honesty,” “aboveboard,” and “forthrightness” are not part of the corporate lexicon, especially where profits are concerned.

Because health insurance companies have broad powers to discriminate in regards to whom they will and won’t insure—not to mention that they deserve much of the blame for rising healthcare costs—the idea of giving them carte blanche privilege to be the sole providers of health insurance for the masses doesn’t even come close to passing the straight face test. In terms of serving most members of society, a strong public option is a better way to go; in terms of serving all members of society, a single payer plan is the only way to go.

Maybe it’s time for House and Senate Democrats to back down* and give obstructionist Republicans what they want: scrap Obama’s current healthcare plan and start over. Start by kicking the insurance companies to the curb. Replace them with a single payer universal healthcare plan based on the Social Security/Medicare models, which work just fine, thank you, when conservatives aren’t trying to subvert them out of existence.

A comprehensive single payer plan would give everyone access to medical care and healthcare services regardless of their income, economic status or station in life. No citizen could be denied medical services, and everyone could choose their own doctor. Everyone would get 100% coverage for medical, dental, vision and hearing. The government, contrary to popular belief, would not be in the business of dictating healthcare choices, so a wide range of medical alternatives, including chiropractic, holistic, acupuncture, physical therapy, dietary, and preventive medical disciplines would be available on patient demand.

Funding a single payer plan is simple in theory if not in practice. Start at 10% of income for individuals, regardless of the individual’s source of income, economic status, or station in life. If you’re a 12-year old with a paper route, 10% of your income goes to 100% healthcare. If you’re a homeless person making a living by returning discarded cans and bottles, 10% of your deposit refunds (collected at point of return) goes to 100% healthcare. If you’re a retiree living on Social Security, 10% of your Social Security amount goes to 100% healthcare. If you’re a CEO hauling down a $1 million a month, 10% of your income goes to 100% healthcare. The plan is all-inclusive, with no loopholes and no exemptions. If you have an income of any kind, in any amount, you pay 10% of it for 100% healthcare.

Such a plan would be advantageous for companies—both large and small—that now find it onerous, if not impossible, to provide health insurance for their employees, as they would be relieved of the moral and/or contractual obligation to provide insurance. Healthcare practitioners and service providers would find relief, too, if only through simplified billing procedures.

But . . . but . . . but what if it takes less than 10% of income to fund the plan?

Reduce the percentage across the board. The plan should not exist to make a profit, only to satisfy people’s healthcare needs.

But . . . but . . . but what if it takes more than 10% of income to fund the plan?

Before raising the percentage on individuals, assess corporations a percentage of their income to make up the shortfall. After all, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, too, didn’t it? Besides, some corporations are already getting health care (AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and General Motors, to name a few); they’re just not paying for it. However, in this case, health care should be limited to the kind rendered by medical professionals for the benefit of living, breathing humans.

But . . . but . . . but I make obscene amounts money, so I’d have to pay an absurd amount of money for my healthcare. It’s just not fair.

Relative to your total income, you’ll pay the same rate as everyone else. If your health isn’t worth 10% of your income to you, I’m prepared to argue that your life is less valuable than you want everyone to think it is.

But . . . but . . . but this healthcare plan will put health insurance companies out of business.

Oh, boo-hoo!

*A euphemism for stand up.

Q >>>


  1. Thanks, Phil.

    But how do you explain Obama's (intellectual) depravity/misunderstanding of what this bill will bring us?

    for-profit corporations exist for one purpose only—to steal as much profit (c’mon, you didn’t expect me to say “earn,” did you?) as they can for their shareholders and to pay outrageous salaries and bonuses to their top executives.

    I can't except to say that his whole campaign was a smooth lie and that he thought being a one-term president (first black, after all) was worth the ruse.

    Did you see Bill Moyers with Dr. Marcia Angell last night?

    Now she's talking!

    Bill Moyers Journal


  2. "But how do you explain Obama's (intellectual) depravity/misunderstanding of what this bill will bring us?"

    I can't. But I do agree with your unstated premise that Obama has been a major disaster for the country in terms of not following through on his campaign promises. The Obama Administration has been a major disappointment to me, and I no longer feel guilty for having voted for his opponent (Cynthia McKinney).

    Sorry, I missed Moyers last night, but I'll revisit the link you provided for a more thorough reading--as soon as I can free up some time. Oh, and I'll get over to WtP2 as soon as I can; I've got some serious catching up to do. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Well, President Obama has a major reality that he has to deal with: over 50% of working-age Americans and their spouses and children have health insurance through their employer, and that majority of working-age Americans really aren't interested in any reform other than reform that would motivate their employer to keep providing insurance. 95% of Americans who have private health insurance, have it through their employer. And those Americans want what they have right now more than they want Medicare For All.

    One thing that continuously irritates me is that some folks on the left seem as unwilling to live in the same reality as the rest of us as the extremists on the right. Yes, Medicare For All would be a cheaper way of doing things. But no, it doesn't have as much support amongst Americans as the plan of requiring employers to provide health insurance or face a fine (the core of the current health bill) does. Saying that the President should ignore this political reality in favor of an idea with less support amongst the American people simply isn't what Democrats believe their job is -- unlike Republicans, they tend to go with whatever solution seems to have the most core support amongst the people rather than with whatever they think the ideal might be. I.e., they believe the people deserve democracy, good and hard, and if the majority of the people want something that's less than ideal, the people deserve to get what they want. Democracy, yo. It ain't a curse word.

    - Badtux the Moderate Penguin

  4. What it all boils down to, 'Tux, is that change is scary and learning something new is hard, and the safe bet is to always bet on the sure thing rather than the unknown thing--even when the sure thing shortchanges you. Democracy, indeed.

  5. H.L. Mencken once said that democracy was the theory that the common folk knew what they wanted, and deserved to get it, good and hard. As Winston Churchill once said, democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all others that have been tried.

    I read the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking polls all the way back to 2005 and the polling numbers fluctuated a bit once the teabaggers started waving their teabags over the open mouths of our media, but soon reverted back to trend. The employer mandate's support -- that employers be required to provide insurance, or pay a fine -- is at around 80% consistently for the past five years. Single-payer's support is between 50% and 60% depending upon how the question is worded. Our Congressmen have read these same polls, and view it as their job to give us what we want, good and hard -- and 80% of us want that employer mandate. The rest of the health bill is pretty much just all the crap needed to make the health care economics work and handle things at the margin and won't affect most people who have insurance through their employer (which is 90% of people who are insured by private insurance, remember).

    In short, from a politician's point of view, it's a good plan -- it gives the people mostly what they want, which is what Democratic politicians view their job as doing. From our point of view it sucks -- single-payer would be much cheaper and provide better care -- but we're smarter than most people. Remember, 50% of all Americans are below average -- and average ain't so smart in the first place.

    - Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

  6. You'll get no argument from me about that, "Tux. But that's the difference between thinking with one's emotions or with one's intellect, isn't it? People are always quick to know what they want, but they can rarely be troubled to explore all aspects of something to determine if it's what they really need.

    The trouble with building boxes is that they're almost always built too small. Once inside, you soon find there's no wiggle room, no room to move around, no room to change position. But, hey, after awhile the confinement begins to feel comfortable, so why bother?