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 >>>