The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, which is kept behind a subscription wall, today ran an editorial that has me scratching my head – it is one long non sequitur.
The piece is about our health insurance system – it is titled “Insurance Costs Just a Symptom of a Sick System”. They do a good job of summing up the problem:
It’s a rare and well-heeled patient who can write a check for even day-to-day health care needs, much less the emergencies and serious illnesses that come along. All the rest of us need some sort of health care insurance to soften the blow. Most of the time, that insurance is a benefit of employment. Others tiptoe through life with no means of paying for a catastrophe, hoping and praying that they make it through one more month without paying a doctor bill.
That is fairly well dead-on, and I’m with them so far. Next they talk about Insure Montana, a program in which I participate, and Blue Cross Blue Shield’s recent statement that they intend to raise premiums by 32%.
That will put insurance costs out of reach for some small businesses and their employees … again. Even those who keep their plans will get fewer benefits and higher deductibles and co-pays.
Insure Montana was a way of offering small businesses, including independent contractors, affordable insurance. Apparently the effort has failed – BCBS says that they encountered some very high individual cases that absorbed much of the fund’s resources. It probably suffers from the basic defect of insurance in general – adverse selection. People who sought out this program were probably otherwise turned down for health insurance, and are a high risk pool.
Anyway, so far, I’m with the Chronicle. It’s s shame the program is not working, that we are back at square one – unaffordable insurance, uninsured people.
Then they veer right. Way right.
The root of the problem is not people who go to the doctor too frequently. And more government interference is not the solution. If Congress and the Legislature want to get involved, they can start with tort reform.
There are so many levels on which to attack this silly statement – just the obvious: If government interference is not the solution, why do you advocate government interference in lawsuits and settlements in the form of caps? Isn’t that, like, massive interference?
And what, pray tell, is the exact relationship between Insure Montana’s problems and tort reform? (Hint – if you guessed “none”, you score a point. This is classic non sequitur.)
And what is the relationship between rising medical costs and legal settlements (“frivolous” lawsuits)? As John Kerry stated in one of the presidential debates in 2004, medical malpractice suits contribute less than 2% of the rising cost of health care. The problem is this: We are getting better at what we do. Newer and better machines and procedures squeeze out old ones. People with insurance automatically avail themselves with the best and the newest, and costs rise accordingly.
The solution – spread the cost over a wider pool of people – define the health insurance pool as “all of us”. It works in every other industrialized country. It’s not been tried here because of the power of the medical sector, and its support from people like Stephanie Pressley, Bob Gibson, Bill Wilke, Karen Rannow and Christine Uthoff, the editorial board of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Tort reform is cynical – the right has taken a problem that affects us all deeply, and has crafted a solution that benefits its wealthiest members. If we get tort reform, the wealthiest doctors and medical insurance and health corporations will be protected from high settlements for punitive damages. Health care costs will continue to skyrocket. And the right will be out of solutions.
So we’ll just have to live with the problem. It’s all they’ve got for a solution. They are bankrupt.