You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘health insurance’ tag.

I’ll admit it. I like firing people too, especially if they suck at what they do. So Mitt Romney, your comments don’t bother me.

Indeed, I agree that Romney’s comments–about enjoying the act of firing people–were taken out of context. But it’s really quite a stroke of luck for the GOP front-runner that few people are trying to square those comments with the actual context.

Yes, it is pink.

As everyone knows by now, Romney was talking about health insurance when he made his now-famous remarks.

The problem with health insurers is not that their customers can’t fire them (i.e., find better coverage at better prices). It’s that the insurers can simply refuse to do business with you in the first place, for example, if you are sick and urgently need an insurance company’s services. Or if you have been sick in the past and might need the company’s services again.

As a result, I doubt that a sick person who has a problem with an insurance company can realistically fire that company and hire a new one in its place.

Romney probably knows this. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed health care legislation designed to spare people from this problem. As president, Barack Obama did the same. Insurers agreed to cover all comers in return for the requirement that all people buy coverage–not just buy it when they’re sick.

I guess at some point in this contest we’ll get to that debate. But I’m not going to hold my breath. It might make me sick–and then I’d be the one on the firing line.

Advertisements

Set your hypocrisy radars on high alert. Just don’t expect anyone to reconcile the AIG bailout with the values of a government supposedly in thrall to the belief that the market is the ultimate arbiter of all that is good and true.

As we’re learning, the market can dish out some ugliness, too. But is it really a new lesson? Not for the workers who used to make Ford minivans. Or the workers that used to make toys, lawn mowers and televisions. Nor is the market’s ability to inflict pain news to anyone who has to fill up a gas tank or pay for their own health insurance.

But in all of those cases, we let the market do its work, or at least profess faith in its ability to do so over the long run – if, for example, we could clear out those silly government bans on offshore drilling. But when you’re an investment bank or an international insurance company, I guess drill, baby,  drill – or retrain, baby, retrain – isn’t the answer. The answer is a multi-billion-dollar loan.

I laughed when morning news anchors on CNN lamented AIG’s interest rate of 11.5%, calling it high and an incentive for the company to look elsewhere. Funny, but I don’t recall any journalists wringing their hands over the rates charged to people with credit cards (20%-plus) or the rates charged to subprime borrowers.

Seems to me, if your business is a credit risk and teetering on the edge of collapse, you should pay higher rates. No lender throws good money after bad at a low rate. Well, not anymore, anyway.

Another ridiculous argument in all this is the claim that the collapse of AIG would lead to higher borrowing costs. Higher costs for whom? Certainly not for people buying cars and houses, the two major purchases for most consumers.

The automakers would go lower than 0% if they could and I don’t see that changing – unless they get a bailout of their own. The same incentives apply to housing. If rates rise, home prices likely will fall, making them more affordable in the long run, not exactly the worst news in the world.

Yes, it sucks if you already have a house and the value falls or simply doesn’t go up year after year. But look on the bright side. You own a house. And now you own an insurance company, or at least a 79.5% stake in one. I can’t wait for my first dividend check.

Health care is the new weather. Everyone likes to talk about it (especially in an election year), but no one wants to do anything about it. Except talk some more.

I’m glad that a lot of people see a need for change. But I imagine if you took a poll about the weather on any given day, you’d get similar results.

At least the weather has a chance of changing for the better if you just wait. Not so with health care. Someone has to be benefiting from the current situation and its progressive worsening (my premiums are going up nearly 30% this year and I already pay a ton out of pocket as it is). And I doubt those someones will green-light reform without putting up a huge fight.

It’ll all come down to who pays. People will be stirred up against higher taxes, not realizing that a heavier financial burden will be taken off their backs. But maybe that paradigm is shifting. People may be realizing they get something for their taxes, whether it’s war, health care or clean roads.

If you don’t want to pay for it, stop complaining. Save your gripes for the weather.

I tend to harp on the perils and pitfalls of free-market medicine. But there’s one area where it seems to work, at least in my own life. So I figured I should give dentistry some due.

Last November, my dentist told me I needed $300 worth of work based, essentially, on readings given by a laser beam that a dental assistant shined through my teeth. This red beam allegedly showed the existence of unseen cavities caused by pinhole cracks. I balked. After all, my teeth felt fine (my gum line is another story). But the dentist insisted on the additional work. I told him I would get a second opinion. He graciously allowed that such a move was “my prerogative.” Thanks.

So this month, I went to a second dentist who doesn’t use the laser-pointer and said my teeth looked fine. He even said he would refrain from drilling unless really necessary. After all, dental procedures don’t always turn out as planned. And he told me what I could do on my own to arrest — and even reverse — any problems that might be stirring behind the enamel. The old dentist did no such thing.

As you can imagine, I now have a new dentist. He costs more per visit, $78 versus $55. But there are several key differences that make the extra cash worthwhile, even if it comes from my own pocket — which it does.

My new dentist does the cleaning himself rather than assigning it to an assistant. Second, he doesn’t push expensive procedures. The old dentist had TVs in the treatment rooms showing crooked and yellowed teeth turning white, shiny and straight, kind of like those ads showing Democratic candidates morphing into Osama bin Laden. I’m willing to pay more if I don’t have to resist that kind of marketing pressure every six months.

Dental care is unique in that regular care is relatively affordable and necessary, at least on a middle-class income. It also feels good to have a nice clean mouth for a day or two. And the more expensive-but-routine procedures are relatively limited. For the most part, it’s easy to compare.

Nonetheless, it was a fairly wrenching decision to change dentists. It wasn’t easy to disagree with a medical professional. They have a certain authority that’s hard to reject. I happen to be stubborn enough and didn’t have a long history with my first dentist. It would be tougher to reject a dentist or doctor I’d been seeing since childhood.

Some dentists certainly push what could be unnecessary care, and that could happen in the wider medical market. Maybe we could learn something from dentists, though. Where the sales tactics are too heavy-handed, it could encourage more people to get second opinions. It’s nice to see that where choice is available and exercised, there’s often a better one.

Give John McCain credit for a healthcare plan that goes beyond the traditional conservative mantra of “tort reform.” It’s actually a decent plan if you agree a free market is a good prescription for our healthcare woes. I for one would love a tax credit for buying my own health insurance, which I have to do because I’m self-employed. Too bad the market fails in reality.

It’s fun to dream of consumer power over healthcare decisions. But it’s ultimately a fantasy. I know this firsthand. My second son — who’s looked perfectly healthy on the outside during his 11 months so far — has a suspicious heartbeat that requires occasional and expensive tests to make sure it’s still not a problem.

We have a health-savings account, so we pay most of this stuff out-of-pocket. We could decide to forgo these tests, considering there appears to be little wrong with our son and he’s otherwise perfectly healthy. But, the doctors tell us there’s an outside chance of something bad cropping up. Do we really have a choice in spending the money? I guess. I do often suspect the doctors are being overly cautious and the tests may not really be necessary.

I could get a second opinion — for another couple hundred dollars. Or I could decide I’d rather spend all the money on iTunes and Amazon. What if I spurned the tests simply because I didn’t have the extra couple hundred dollars to spare? What’s good for the bank account may not always be good for the heart.

I know money should play a role somewhere in the healthcare equation, and something has to happen to rein in spending. But I can’t imagine complicating already-excruciating decisions for parents by forcing them to weigh family finances against a child’s health. Maybe the advocates of free-market healthcare think that’s a good thing, and they may even have a rational argument to support it. But the argument needs to be at or near the center of debate.

That’s the unspoken straight talk about consumer-driven healthcare.