Tuesday, September 25, 2007
In a series of recent columns, John Stossel has been ably and valiantly tackling the numerous fallacies and misconceptions behind the current drive for socialized medicine. In his latest installment, he looks at the notion that we all "need" medical insurance (of the kind many of us have today) with a jaundiced eye:
America's health-care problem is not that some people lack insurance -- it's that 250 million Americans do have it.Now this is nothing new to me or to many fellow advocates of fewer government controls for the medical sector, but remember that it is necessary (and often missing) historical context for most people.
You have to understand something right from the start. We Americans got hooked on health insurance because the government did the insurance companies a favor during World War II. Wartime wage controls prohibited cash raises, so employers started giving noncash benefits, like health insurance, to attract workers. The tax code helped this along by treating employer-based health insurance more favorably than coverage you buy yourself.
This background also sets up Stossel's very good explanation of what is wrong with so many Americans having medical insurance. Here is just part of a superb explanation of the overhead insurance companies face, as well as how low deductibles encourage over-use of the medical care that is available by those who don't really need it.
[I]nsurance is a lousy way to pay for things. Your premiums go not just to pay for medical care but also for fraud, paperwork and insurance-company employee salaries. This is bad for you and bad for doctors.Read the whole thing -- and remember these excellent examples the next time you find yourself talking to someone who is a little confused about the "need" for universal rationing -- I mean "coverage".
The average American doctor now spends 14 percent of his income on insurance paperwork. A North Carolina doctor we interviewed had to hire four people just to fill out forms. He wishes he could spend that money on caring for patients.
Imagine if your car insurance covered oil changes and gasoline. You wouldn't care how much gas you used, and you wouldn't care what it cost. Mechanics would sell you $100 oil changes. Prices would skyrocket.