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Should Personal Responsibility Be Rewarded With Lower Insurance Premiums?

The time has come to change the rules. As you know the current insurance market is unsustainable. Whether you’re talking about The Medicare National Bank or your Blue Cross, they are all doomed for failure. Why? Because they treat everyone (group plans) the same . And as a result, the incentive towards health has been lost.

What if it wasn’t like that? What if your cost of insurance was 1/10 as much? What if you only paid $1000 a year in insurance, and carried an income based high deductible health policy? What if you were required to take care of the oil changes while your insurance, an affordable insurance, was there to protect you from disaster. An insurance you bought in the open market.

Is all this possible in the current insurance market? Not even close. If you are lucky enough to be employed by a big corporation, you are lucky enough to have deep premium discounts and a large population to spread the risk. If you work for a small business or are a small businessman, you are just one major illness away from catastrophic premium increases. Should you or one of your employees get sick, you’re all screwed.

If three of Happy’s hospitalists suddenly became gravely ill with H1N1 and were left on the ventilator for weeks and accrued hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars of health care bills, the cost of my premiums would rise dramatically, as a consequence of the large risk in a small pool of people, Happy’s private hospitalist group. While big business is able to spread that risk over hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees, they too are finding that they can’t keep up with the cost of health care inflation.

Why? Why does it have to be so difficult? When people are put in control of their health care dollars, they have a skin in the game that can’t be appreciated by the third party insurance model. Few people realize that the $12,000 in premiums their employer is paying, on their behalf, is $12,000 that is coming out of their pocket.

Many liberals want to claim that middle class wages were stagnant during the Bush years. Hardly, when you account for the health care premiums their employers paid on their behalf, the numbers don’t look so bad. These are stealth wages, wages which might as well be cash in your pocket.

Unfortunately, the current rules of the land have created a completely irrational playing field. Why should my choices be limited to what my employer offers or what my state says is right for me? Why should I be straddled with massive rises in insurance premiums because three of Happy’s partners had an unlucky run in with a virus? It shouldn’t have to be that way.

That’s why I see market choice and responsibility as the way out of this fiscal disaster. If premiums have doubled in the last 10 years to $12,000, how many businesses big and small can afford $25,000 in ten more years? The answer is almost none. Obama’s proposals do nothing to address this factor. The solution is not more insurance. The solution is not Universal insurance. The solution is to change the rules of the game. Rules your government created. Rules which brought us where we are today. The current insurance model does not work because our insurance has become an inflated currency of trade. A currency which is not allowed to follow the rules of supply and demand. Look only to the expansion of health care jobs in the worst recession in over 50 years and ask yourself how that is possible. And ask yourself if that is sustainable.
I do not want to be paying $25,000 a year a decade from now. $25,000 a year for taking care of myself and doing what’s right for my body.
We already know that 80% of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke can be avoided by doing four simple things:
  1. Don’t smoke,
  2. Engage in 3 1/2 hours a week of exercise.
  3. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in read meat
  4. Don’t become obese (BMI >30)

If you do these four lifestyle actions, your odds of falling ill with one of these top four life changing or life ending diseases is slashed by 80%. That is an amazing fact. To a major degree you have the ability to decide your destiny of health by the actions you choose.

That’s the insurance pool I want to be a part of. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*

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