Universal Healthcare sans Government
After watching 60 Minutes Sunday night, I was moved by the plight of middle income Americans who have lost their health insurance and can't get needed treatment, even for conditions that threaten their lives. Medicare and Medicade cover the disabled, the elderly and the poorest among us. For everyone else there is no real safety net. But there could be and should be, without surrendering our healthcare needs to a bloated and inefficient government bureaucracy as President Obama proposes.
How! We have numerous large health insurance providers in this nation, Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, just to name a few. Divide the country into "health coverage zones" based upon population and the availability of health care facilities. Six to eight zones should suffice. Then solicit competitive bids from large health care providers in each zone with the bid criteria to be developed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). This criteria should make it mandatory every American receive equitable treatment, however severe their health condition. Large insurance companies have the clout to negotiate reasonable costs with healthcare providers, just as they do now. And then offer payers a choice of PPO, HMO or other such group coverages which can lower the cost of health insurance.
Next, Congress should make it mandatory for all Americans, 18 and older who are not covered by Medicare or Medicade and are no longer in high school, to pay for health insurance. If an 18-year is enrolled in college, the cost of the annual health insurance premium could be included as part of the semester or quarter tuition cost. Anyone employed would have the monthly cost of health insurance deducted from their paychecks, just as income and medicare taxes are deducted now. If someone loses their job, the cost of health insurance would be covered by the state and deducted from their unemployment insurance. Employers would no longer provide health insurance, which would lift a huge burden from American businesses. This could speed the recovery of major employers like the auto industry. And the cost of insurance should be an equal burden for all with such a large "pool" of people paying into the coverage "pool."
Many young people go without health insurance because they see no reason to pay when it is unlikely they will need it. It is a bet they would no longer have to make that their youth will insulate them from a major health expense. And having younger people paying into the health insurance pool would help even out the costs for those facing a major health crisis.
The free market has provided the most efficient answers to most of America's problems in the past. A plan similar to this was floated by the AMA in the 1960's when a government run national health plan was debated during the Johnson administration. It was roundly castigated by the "lets let the government do it crowd" (Congress!!!). Maybe it is time to take a second look at such a national coverage plan which could insure that people don't fall through the health coverage cracks because they are not disabled, senior citizens or meet the government's criteria for poor. But let the private sector provide the service, not a government bureaucracy.