Sunday, August 23, 2009

Health Insurance Debate

I don't normally like to jump into these debates on my blog, but health insurance reform is one of those issues that will eventually determine the survival of small business. We don't offer health insurance, as a business, because it's far too expensive. In fact, getting insurance on the open market is one of the key factors that makes a lot of businesses close, the owners seeking jobs with employer paid health insurance.

In my case, my insurance has risen dramatically based on nothing but my age, while my wife is uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions. My son was even denied coverage when we first took him home after he was born, because he's adopted. It's against the law to deny him coverage, but Blue Cross did it anyway, and we had to threaten legal action until they relented. If I were to get seriously sick now, my finances would stretch to the breaking point on the high deductible alone. Don't even get me started on how this is a disincentive to get preventative care; nobody wants a pre-existing condition on their record. It's the medical equivalent of a bankruptcy and a felony on your record. It's understandable how emergency rooms have become the primary case centers.

I think most people, two-thirds of those covered, don't understand the costs of health insurance. Their employers provide it and the employer is subsidized by the government with a whopping tax deduction. I'm a big fan of the idea of killing the tax deduction for employer health insurance and allowing employees to control their health insurance, giving them a tax credit that encourages them to save. Nobody indulges in health insurance, like fancy luxury cars, but they would certainly scrimp a little more if they knew the true costs and if they had an incentive to save. It's the only way for most people to take control of their insurance and understand true costs. The tax credit distorts pricing, disincentives savings, and masks the true problem of skyrocketing costs, the problem people like me face.

The debate is complicated and change will happen. It's sad to hear the Republicans (it's not the health care industry this time) deride ideas that work so very well in other industrialized countries, including the lie that it doesn't work in those countries. The party of "no" is spreading FUD as quickly as possible, and the fringe appear to be listening. From the rhetoric and the gun toting retards at town hall meetings, you have to think that these people truly believe we're headed towards some sort of socialist dictatorship (a contradiction in terms). As if Germany and Britain don't already provide an example of a public and private insurance system getting along admirably. Of course, the Democrats can't get their story straight either, which gives me more pause about a public insurance option than any of the actual proposals.