Several presidential candidates have put forth health care plans that include making health insurance mandatory, much like liability auto insurance. Governor Schwarzenegger has been pushing for universal health care in CA for months now, and part of his plan is to make health insurance mandatory. And Colorado is considering two proposals that would make health insurance mandatory.
Critics are saying that it’s too expensive to mandate. But that’s using current health insurance premium figures, with the premiums spread over a smaller group than the actual population that uses health care. Every time an uninsured person incurs a large medical bill and defaults on payment, the providers have to write off the charges. To make up for the losses, they charge higher rates, which are paid by insurance companies when insured patients seek care. If everyone had health insurance, hospitals would not be writing off bad debt on a regular basis and passing the cost along to health insurance companies. So it stands to reason that premiums would be lower for everyone who already pays for health insurance. Obviously, for those who have been going without, the premiums would be higher than the zero amount they are currently paying. But it is only fair to expect everyone to contribute to a program that benefits everyone – none of us know when we might need medical care, regardless of how healthy we may be right now.
The average amount that employers spend to insure a single person is $4500/year, and $12,100 for a family of four. Keep in mind that those are premiums for guaranteed issue policies – all pre-existing conditions are covered – and the policies tend to be very comprehensive, with coverage for maternity, doctor visits, first dollar coverage for prescriptions, etc. I don’t think that health insurance should cover things like doctor visits until a deductible is met. We are way to quick to run to the doctor, usually begging for an antibiotic prescription, at the first sign of a sniffle. We have forgotten how to take care of our own health. If health insurance didn’t cover so much minor stuff, it would be less expensive.
And then there’s the obvious – a large number of people who are uninsured cannot afford health insurance, even the least expensive, medically underwritten policies. So if we’re going to mandate health insurance, we need to greatly expand programs like Medicaid or offer subsidies to health insurance companies to lower their rates for people with low incomes who do not qualify for Medicaid.
We’re all going to have to be involved in fixing the health care problems we currently face. The government is going to have to help with the financial burden, citizens are going to have to take responsibility for their health and for making sure that they have health insurance in place, and providers and insurance companies are going to have to trim the fat and lower costs (CEO’s who make $36,988,014 a year would be a good place to start). And we have to spread the cost and risk across the whole population; if emergency rooms have to treat all patients, regardless of ability to pay, health insurance has got to be mandatory.