Letter: Universal insurance should be paid for through taxes
To the editor:
Maybe now is a good time to ask ourselves “What is the point of healthcare insurance?” Hopefully, we all answer “To share the risk”.
We all know we are going to have an illness or injury and need medical care sooner or later. We know that for some of us that care will be ruinously expensive. But we can’t know exactly when we will need care or how much it will cost. So we band together into a pool and agree to share the risk. Insurance is the system by which we all chip in together so that when we need medical care we will be able to get it and not be destroyed by the cost. It’s a smart thing to do. In fact, insurance companies understand the value of sharing risk. They’re not stupid. That’s why they set up risk pools for themselves. Google it.
People without insurance still need healthcare and they still get it. They may not get all the care they need when it would be best and least expensive to get it, but when they’re hit by a bus or catastrophically ill they get “free care” from the hospital. The costs of this care don’t disappear, but are bundled into what is covered by our insurance premiums. And those costs are often larger than they needed to be if the person had access to preventative and routine care.
Inarguably, hundreds of thousands of families are bankrupted every year by medical bills. And their misfortune costs the rest of us plenty. As noted above, we pay for the medical costs they can’t pay for. But that’s not the end of it. Parents lose their homes and jobs and need public assistance. Children are traumatized and their education and development suffer. You get the idea. These are significant societal costs that affect us all.
Everyone should be covered by insurance. Although we love the phrase “freedom of choice,” it’s not rational to leave it up to the individual to choose whether to be insured. Think about why we insist that everyone carry liability insurance as a requirement to drive. If someone hits me, I shouldn’t have to pay to repair my car. We may be willing for people to gamble with their own money, but we generally don’t want other people to gamble with ours. But that’s what happens when people choose not to carry medical insurance.
The insurance covering Americans should be fair. Right now, we’re all playing a warped lottery where the insurance you can get—what it covers and what it costs you—depends on whether you’ve been lucky enough to keep full-time work and who your employer happens to be. How is it fair for me to have lavish healthcare insurance that covers every procedure and prescription without copays or deductibles while my neighbor has only crummy insurance that is the best her employer can afford to offer? Meanwhile, another neighbor is on Medicaid and has trouble finding providers that accept it and yet another neighbor is simply uninsured.
Logically, it makes most sense to insure all Americans with coverage that we all chip in to pay for: universal insurance paid for through taxes.
If we think it through, there is no real reason to even have a private healthcare insurance industry in the first place. It is an artifact left over from the past. Insurance companies add tremendously to the costs of healthcare insurance. How much could we save if we didn’t have to pay for their advertising and marketing, the bloated salaries and benefits paid to their executives, the administrative costs of the legions of workers hired to find excuses to deny claims, and the record profits they bank every year?
Our healthcare insurance system could be better. It should be better. We ought to work together to make it better. The Republican proposal now in Congress goes in exactly the wrong direction.