On Healthcare
August 16th, 2009 by Mike

It seems like one can’t turn on a news program these days without somebody blathering on about healthcare. It probably won’t surprise my readers to know that I have some very strong opinions on the matter. As someone who is a consumer of a great number of healthcare resources, I like to think I’m pretty well aware of the current system, its flaws, its benefits, and how to navigate the system.

Let me start by stating a bias. As a conservative, I don’t like government getting its hands into things it shouldn’t.  Government also created this mess. In the world war 2 era, salary caps forced businesses to offer health insurance as a perk to employees. Since they couldn’t pay more, they offered something else of value. That’s capitalism at its best, creating a solution to a problem. In recent years, government made the situation worse by giving tax benefits to employers instead of employees.

Today, the AP has an article saying that the White House may be willing to give up on the so-called public option. This makes me want to jump up and down, cheering all the way.  Again, I don’t think the government should be running a healthcare system. Disagree with me? That’s fine. You’re perfectly entitled to your opinion. But ask a senior how well they like medicare. It’s a broken system, too. Oh, and if you really want an example of how our government runs healthcare, ask a veteran how well the VA runs healthcare. That’s not just broken, it’s a travesty. If that’s how we treat our war heros, imagine how somebody like me will get treated. No, thank you.

Let me start with the big myth that everybody needs a high-end health insurance. Most Americans don’t. If you have a healthy family who has minimal healthcare needs, high-deductible plans could be a serious option, saving a ton of money. Couple that with a flexible spending account, and most people would be well-served. Speaking of flexible spending accounts, eliminating the year-to-year expiration of plans would be a huge benefit. Right now, if I don’t use all of the money in my FSA by the end of the year, that money expires. Why not let it roll over so I can use it the following year? FSAs are one of the best things we’ve ever done for healthcare. I put back close to three thousand dollars every year for my out of pocket expenses, and it’s all pre-tax money. You can’t beat it.

As I mentioned earlier, the current tax laws favor employers who pay for healthcare benefits. Why not open the market so that everyone can shop around for the insurance that suits their needs? Having insurance paid for by employers isn’t the only option.

And why aren’t we talking about community clinics? Companies like Walmart and CVS were setting up clinics in their stores where people could spend a little bit of money to see a nurse or nurse practitioner. It’s a brilliant idea that has been squelched by many government organizations, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If someone could spend $20 to see a nurse before waiting for an issue to spiral out of control, forcing a trip to an emergency room, it would take a lot of pressure off our hospitals.

One of the big things we could do to reduce healthcare costs in this country is to end frivolous lawsuits. Defensive medicine is ridiculously expensive, and I’ve recently seen it in action. Before going on Tysabri, I had to have a whole battery of unnecessary tests required by the drug company. Why? Because a few people have died of a rare condition called PML and they’ve been sued. Keep in mind that this is why the drug was still experimental. Now, I have to have several expensive tests just to minimize the chance of the drug company being sued.

The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey has been under fire by the far left, including a group on Facebook, because he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with some of his opinions. The funny thing is that I agree with him on many points. I don’t agree with everything he says, but a lot of what he says makes sense.

Yes, healthcare in this country is broken and needs to be fixed. But lets not make it worse. Lets enact change, but lets fix the low-hanging fruit first. Sweeping change to a system that touches every segment of our economy could be a disaster in the making. I’d rather have it right instead of right now.

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