Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I read with interest the column by William A. Collins in Friday’s Bulletin regarding the path health care is taking. I also believe that health care is going down the wrong track. The wrong track is precisely the track that Mr. Collins advocates, more government intervention with an ever increasing tax burden. Government regulation is precisely why we are in the mess we are in and Mr. Collins wants more government intervention.
Mr. Collins is correct that employers provide the majority of the health insurance in the US. But let’s look at why that is. In the 1940’s, during WWII, the government implemented pay limits. So, companies started offering insurance benefits to attract the talent they needed without violating the pay limit regulations. Now that pay limits are no longer in effect, you would think that companies would stop offering insurance. However, with our present tax scheme, companies can pay their employee’s insurance, take a tax deduction for that payment and the employee does not recognize the payments as income. So today, the reason companies pay for health insurance is to take advantage of the tax benefit to companies and not to help the workers.
I have to mention that companies pay a premium for that coverage. My company was paying Kaiser about $1,200 per month for my family health plan. After I left the company, I received a quote from Kaiser for the same plan but for a personal policy for about $700 per month. The company was willing to pay the difference because, I assume, of the tax benefits. It is rather obvious that Kaiser would be more willing to insure a company of 50 people at a higher premium than insure just one individual family. That is why it is hard to find insurance coverage for families, again because of government regulations.
Here are some personal experiences I have had with our insurance system caused by government regulation. A few years ago, I had surgery. Although I was insured, I received the hospital bill for the surgery. The bill for the hospital was about $18,000. Boy was I glad I had insurance until I found out what my insurance company paid the hospital; less than $4,000. I could have paid the $4,000. However, $18,000 was way beyond my means. If I was charged what insurance companies paid, I could afford to self-insure (I would just pay for catastrophic coverage).
My son was in an auto accident. The accident was very serious. He was transported to an emergency room. They observed him and his son for a couple of hours (waited in a treatment room for hours), asked him about a dozen questions, cleaned some of the scrapes that he had and put a bandage on them. He didn’t even require stitches or X-rays. According to the hospital bill, the charge for treatment was about $800 for him and his son. I thought that was outrageous. Then came the real shocker. They charged him a $14,000 emergency room fee; each. Can you believe it, $28,800 for some questions and a bandage. Why did they charge such a huge fee? It was because of all the government mandates on health care.
I say let’s give true free enterprise a chance. Let’s get government completely out of health care. Let me make my own choices and I will be responsible for my decisions. When the costs of health care affect us personally, we will watch how each dollar is spent and then we will see a huge decrease in the cost of health care. If someone else pays for our health care (our employer or the government), we have no incentive to watch how those dollars are spent. Thus, hospitals and doctors can charge outrageous fees and we say, “Oh well. My insurance is paying for it.”
June 3, 2011