05 January 2007

Ft Collins Coloradoan opinion

The Fort Collins Coloradoan ran an opinion piece on healthcare on New Years Day. In it, Chris Schwab explains why competition works in most markets — including the health devices market where buyers shop around for items and they have information and choice.
However, when it comes to competition in the health insurance market, competition fails to keep costs down or improve product quality and quantity.

Schwab doesn't even go into the fact that this market is devilishly complex and opaque, and that there's no way that consumers can make a choice in the face of emergencies. Do you want your loved one to have this test? they may ask, with that person in critical condition. You, not having gone to medical school, know neither how critical the test is, nor its price.

Schwab looks instead at the business model for insurance companies. Do they make money by caring for you? No. They make money by not treating you. Insurance companies therefore do their best to exclude anyone who actually needs medical care. If they sniff out that you might need care during the application process, you very well might find yourself without access to coverage.

Schwab notes that in such cases, programs like CoverColorado may take up the slack — if you can afford it. If you can't it's tough luck.

"The problems I've mentioned seem to be what every other industrialized nation except us has figured out and avoided. They pay less per capita, cover everybody and have better health stats to boot. As state Rep.-elect Randy Fischer... put it, much of health care is infrastructure such as our roads, police, military and our fire department.

"But if you don't believe me - someone who was responsible for a relative with a chronic illness, someone who has been through a layoff and knows what COBRA wanted me to pay to keep my health insurance, and someone who is now covered by the Veteran's Administration (a government-run, government paid for healthcare system that none other than Business Week says gives "The Best Medical Care in the U.S.") - then you owe it to yourself to check out organizations such as Health Care for All Colorado (www.healthcareforallcolorado. org and Physicians for a National Health Program (www. pnhp.org)."

The Coloradoan posts comments, most of which agree with Schwab. One reader, for instance, says, "Employer sponsored health care is simply not working anymore - the employment climate has changed too much. A lot of people work contract work, part time, etc. and this puts them at a disadvantage to get affordable health insurance. I don't think care should be free but we shouldn't have to rely on our employers for health insurance."

That's exactly what happened to Paul, who did contract work.

One poster, however, says he's on CoverColorado and though the premiums are high, $407/month with a $200 deductible, he thinks it's a fair deal. He thinks the critics want something for nothing.

That's not true. Like other single-payer advocates I've talked with, I expect to pay something for healthcare. But I object to a system that excludes so many people at such a great cost, that sells a flawed and worsening product, and that siphons off so many of my healthcare dollars into waste and obscene executive salaries.

Just seems wrong.

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