Wednesday, June 24, 2009

4 Health Care Solutions

1) Limited Government. The government, through Medicare, currently reimburses doctors for 81% of the cost of medical treatment on Medicare patients. How do doctors make up the 19% difference? They charge more for their patients who have private insurance. So, through Medicare, the government is already a huge factor in the ever climbing costs of health care. A single payer plan, or socialized medicine, that Obama is currently proposing (he claims it is not a single payer plan, but the public option he is proposing in the end turns his proposal into that), would essentially put the whole nation on Medicare. Private insurance would go out of business. And then we are left with everyone on Medicare, and medical bills not being paid 100%. How will doctors and hospitals then make up the difference? Lower quality care. How will the government make up the difference? Rationing. So the #1 health care solution is to not implement socialized medicine. I would like to see the dissolution of Medicare altogether in favor of a program in which we could save for our future health care needs tax free in the same manner in which we save for our retirement with a 401K.

2) Health Savings Accounts. These accounts are available for those who have high deductible health insurance plans. It can be likened to an IRA, but for your health care. You store your contribution or your employer's contribution in a health savings account tax free. Whatever you do not use from this account each year rolls over to the next year. In this way, you can invest your health care dollars. You use this account to pay for your medical bills.

This is the way for the future because each individual pays themselves for their health care expenses. Your insurance only kicks in after you meet your high deductible, so ideally you do not use your insurance unless you have an unforeseen accident or disease. In this way, you continue to invest this money each year at a profit to yourself.

If individuals pay for their own health care costs, they will shop around more for better deals. They will make better decisions and not receive so many unnecessary tests and procedures. One of the highest costs to health insurance providers is when the consumer chooses a name brand drug instead of a generic one. If the consumer is paying the entire price of the drug themselves, they will be more likely to choose a generic one, and if they don't, it doesn't hurt others as their insurance provider is forced to supplement the cost of the name brand drug because they pay for it all themselves. All of these name brand drugs and unnecessary tests and procedures are a leading cause of skyrocketing health care costs that will be eliminated when the issue of cost is introduced into the health care decisions of consumers. This will increase competition among doctors and cause prices to begin to be reduced as doctors fight for patients and do not want to lose them to a lower priced doctor. Also, your health insurance premiums are significantly reduced when you take upon yourself more of the costs of your care.

3) Tort Reform. According to Bloomberg, 10% of the current cost of healthcare is due to malpractice lawsuits. The amount awarded to those filing malpractice lawsuits is arbitrarily decided upon by juries. Punitive amounts and awards for pain and suffering are subjective, and juries tend to award these in an excessively high amount. Although no one wants doctors to be unchecked regarding malpractice, runaway lawsuit costs jack up the price of malpractice insurance greatly. This in turn leads to a higher cost of medical care for everyone as some of the cost is passed on to the patient's insurance provider. Tort reform is needed to cap punitive damages that can be awarded in lawsuits.

Malpractice insurance costs have led to the shortage of ob/gyn doctors in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Washington D.C. In 2004 in Florida, the average malpractice insurance premium was $195,000. In Dade County, Florida it was $277,000. The more malpractice lawsuits filed in a given area, the higher the likelihood becomes that ob/gyn doctors will just relocate rather than pay these premiums. My own ob/gyn just left private practice due to the exorbitant cost of malpractice insurance. Although he has not been involved in malpractice lawsuits, he can no longer afford to pay for the insurance and remain in private practice.

The high incidence of malpractice lawsuits also causes doctors to prescribe unnecessary tests and procedures to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit. This increases the cost of health care for everyone.

4) Emergency Room Visits (Illegal Immigrants). In the past six years, nine people from Austin, Texas accounted for 2,678 emergency room visits costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million. Illegal immigrants use the emergency room for all of their health care since they can not be turned away and do not have to pay for their care.

A couple of years ago I was in the emergency room with my husband for some cancer complications. Our doctor kept having to leave periodically as he was dividing his time between my husband and another patient. He was so apologetic and so mad because the other patient eating up his time was an illegal immigrant who was in for a toothache. The illegal immigrant did not have dental insurance or the money to pay for a dentist visit, so he was trying to get the ER doctor to fix his tooth. The doctor said it was very hard to even help him since he had not studied dentistry. So not only was taxpayer money spent on this illegal immigrant's toothache, but patients like my husband who are in for an emergency cancer complication have their care compromised to make room for these ridiculous and costly non-emergencies racked up by non-Americans.

The estimated cost of illegal immigrant health care in just California is $1.4 billion per year. This is paid for by taxpayers. Hospitals also lose money on this as well. At least one hospital in Arizona has filed for bankruptcy and may close because of money lost on illegal immigrants. Reform needs to make it harder to visit the ER without being able to pay for it, and the United States needs to put a complete stop to the free health care being offered to illegal immigrants.

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