I have intentionally avoided writing about President Obama’s Affordable Care Act for months. However I feel compelled to offer some simple suggestions as to how we can still recover without killing the patient, our current health-care system.
The original argument for a governmental health-care takeover was that we are inhuman for not providing good health-care for our uninsured poor. To sell that, the president insisted the rest of us with insurance would not be harmed, or at least not much.
Now we know the most strident critics were correct that ACA was and is designed to drastically change almost everything about current health care. The website problems are obvious, but the technology boondoggle is not even one of the most important problems.
I finally heard a reference on CNBC to this fact: Insurance is sold, not bought. Even before now, health insurance has been complicated. But in my office, we have learned first hand how much ridiculous red tape there is for anyone to even try to help 64-year-olds with their Medicare coverage decisions, much less the new mess. The government rationale is that no one should be able to sell the stuff – everyone should buy it themselves.
The ACA answer is so-called guides to encourage people into the best choices for them. This is in spite of the fact that the guides must be untrained about health insurance. I’m not making this up. The people who designed this Rube Goldberg contraption have apparently never been across the street or dealt with real people in their lives.
How can we help poor people get health care?
• Establish special clinics and hospitals for the poor, similar to the Veterans Administration system. This would cost billions less, but spur new construction in their neighborhoods.
• When government-insured patients show up at private hospitals for emergency care, determine whether a truly life-threatening situation exists. If it does, treat them and we will pay for it. Otherwise, dismiss them or transport them to the nearest government hospital. We will pay for it there.
• Get federal hands off of medical schools and residency programs. Their quotas for general practitioners and specialists in the past several decades have been a disaster. There are plenty of smart young people here who could be excellent doctors.
• Let people buy as much or as little health insurance as they want, including catastrophic only coverage. You cannot make 25-year-olds voluntarily pay three to five times normal cost just to support baby boomers or the poor.
• Stop paying for elective procedures and drugs. I don’t need erectile dysfunction drugs yet, but to expect you to buy them for me would be (and is now) an outrage. Lasik surgery is cheap and effective because insurance does not pay for it. People seem to have no problem paying for plastic surgeries themselves.
• Leave the rest of us alone! Let me choose my doctor. Let me decide how much health care I want to pay for.
Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.