Maria Bartiroma hosted an interesting program entitled, “Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Health Care”, which brought together various factions involved in our current health care debate. It was a fascinating show where representatives from insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical industries as well as government and big business had a conversation. Not a confrontation brought to you by conservative whack jobs trying to mainstream the idea that health care reform is, as Rachel Maddow likes to put it, “a secret plot to kill your grandparents”.
In honor of open dialogue and persons of differing opinions coming together with solutions and ideas rather than disruption and finger pointing, here are a few of the points brought up during the hour…
Getting Out Of The Way Of The Free Market: Often times TV pundits discussing health care throw around this idea that government involvement is bad because it gets in the way of the free market. Yet, John C. Lechleiter, CEO & President of Eli Lilly, pointed out that there’s never been a free market with regards to health care. He notes, “We’re in a system today where the person who needs the service or the product can only get it through a learned intermediary, and somebody else pays for it. Thus people are incented to get as much as they can get whether they need it or not and that’s not the way a market works.”
Then Dr. J. James Rohack, President of the American Medical Association, jumped in and noted that the health care system does have a free market but only in the area of cosmetic surgery as it’s the one area not regulated by the government or the insurance industry. He stated that, “Cosmetic surgery is a direct transaction between the patient and the doctor, the fees are set, a negotiation occurs, it’s not paid for [by anyone other than the patient].” He went on to give the example of lasix surgery where technology has improved while the price has gone down.
So the idea that free market competition and leaving government out of the equation is a mute point unless we get rid of insurance all together and make health care something we pay for out of our pockets like car insurance. But even car insurance is required, unlike health insurance which is optional. Besides, the insurance industry isn’t going anywhere, so the dream of a free market that behaves like an actual one isn’t possible. Where it stands now we have a system where the health care industry only makes money if you’re sick, the insurance industry only makes money if you’re well, the “haves” have no incentive to worry about either and the “have-nots” aren’t able to participate.
It’s no wonder this system doesn’t work.
Personal Accountability: Michael Milken, Chairman of The Milken Institute spent most of his air time focused on personal accountability. He said, “If the average weight of American’s simply returned to early 1990s levels the reduction in chronic-disease costs would boost our economy annually by an estimated $1 trillion – at no cost to the government”.
That seems reasonable. Keep health care costs down by by improving the baseline health of the average American. But where’s the incentive? Most American’s are less interested in long term, possible outcomes and more interested in a quick fix. As we live longer, it becomes harder to look into our crystal ball and make choices today that benefit us 50 years from now. Add to that our notion of a free society with various personal liberties and we don’t like to be told what we can and cannot do. Thus health care costs sky rocket because we have the right to smoke, drink excessively, do drugs, over-eat and ride a motorcycle without a helmet without being penalized or denied coverage for our actions.
If you think about it, health insurance isn’t tied to our commitment to wellness but rather our commitment to job performance. Lose your job – you lose your insurance. Gain 300 pounds and four chronic conditions – no problem – as long as you’re employed, you have health insurance.
It’s no wonder this system doesn’t work.
The special was fascinating and covered a ton of topics. It’s well worth your time to view online if you want a serious discussion of the issues in lieu of the political in fighting, posturing and fear mongering going on at present. Health care is complicated and messy and needs to be figured out. Angry mobs aren’t going to help the situation. Which has got me thinking lately…
Is Health Care a Right or Isn’t It?
The Health Care Freedom Coalition as well as other groups, like to point out that health care isn’t a right and therefore not something the government should be involved in. Yet education isn’t a right and we all pay for it collectively. We’ve agreed that educating our youth for the first 18 years of life helps our country thrive. I’m shocked that health care isn’t viewed like education, as an investment in our society. Because frankly, paying to educate kids that are the first generation to possibly not outlive their parents seems like a wasted investment. I’d fire a stockbroker that put my money in an unhealthy company yet we’re more than happy to put our money into an unhealthy group of kids and, fingers crossed, hope they’re around in 40 years.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” are our inalienable rights, i.e., rights that are not to be taken away from us as citizens of this country. When we discuss health care, we’re talking about life, the life we must protect if we’re ever to pursue happiness.
But what is the government’s role? Does it merely ensure the opportunity or does it make a social contract with us to help foster this life in some way? Does society suffer when a growing portion of it doesn’t have the opportunity to create a life via providing basic care for their physical bodies? I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions.
HENCE THE DEBATE.
My mind keeps coming back to the education example and wonders what society would be like if only children that could afford school, went to school or weren’t required by law to attend school. Luckily that doesn’t happen here, where kids learn all sorts of things like, for example, The Rules Of Debate. You know,
- Avoiding the use of the word never.
- Quoting sources and numbers.
- Not presenting opinions as facts.
- Attacking the idea not the person.
- Avoiding bickering, quarreling and wrangling, etc.
Just imagine if the children of this nation didn’t learn these ideas in school. I guess they’d grow up to skew the national news, present opinions as facts, incite riots, hijack town hall meetings, and scare the shit out of people.
Thank God that doesn’t happen here.