MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — National statistics indicate that
approximately 15 percent of people in America do not carry health insurance.
This comes to about 45 million people — including 12 million to 15
million illegal aliens. Of the rest, approximately half could afford
to purchase insurance but chooses not to do so.
Health insurance premiums have risen at double-digit rates for many
years. No one likes it when bills increase. However, politicians see
this rise as an opportunity to grow government. With few exceptions,
elected officials have jumped on the bandwagon of “health care
reform,” in short, government control over health care.
Curiously, this is not the case with fuel prices. The cost of a gallon
of gasoline has, over the last 10 years, risen at a much steeper rate
than the price of health insurance. What steps have been taken to reduce
gasoline prices? None — in fact, the opposite has happened. The current
administration has revoked coastal leases, effectively shutting down
exploration off our west coast. Exploration of prime oil sites in Alaska
is prohibited. Billions of taxpayer dollars are being thrown at bio-fuels.
All of this even though the cost of a gallon of bio-fuel is significantly
higher than a gallon of gasoline, and increasing use of bio-fuels increases
The federal bureaucracy, in the name of “fixing” health
care, wants to take over health care. This move is being promoted as “compassionate” and
necessary to save our health care system. The “takeover” would
result in virtually total government control. Every proposal to date
does this in one way or another. The bottom line is complete federal
Unfortunately, no one is asking any of the right questions and none
of the proposals addresses the root causes of the rapid increase in
costs. None of the bills addresses tort reform. HB 3200 does not even
mention the impact of litigation on health care costs, let alone address
Litigation has forced the health care industry to aggressively practice “defensive
medicine.” Doctors and hospitals frequently run batteries of
tests that they might not run but for the threat of litigation. The
precautions drive up costs. Skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance
— fueled by relentless and unfounded litigation — has become a major
cost item for doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals.
The same is true of pharmaceutical companies. It is estimated that
every new drug brought to market carries multibillion-dollar liability
coverage. In addition, the time it takes to bring a new drug to market
in the U.S. dwarfs the process in other countries. It is not only the
time that is the problem. It is the degree of testing and the astronomical
costs imposed that are the primary drivers in the escalating cost of
drugs in our country. Nothing in the proposed legislation addresses
All proposals mandate that everyone purchase health insurance. All
proposals set up a federal bureaucracy telling insurance companies
what must be covered. Failure to buy a policy results in penalties
— so much for freedom of choice.
The debate has ignored the fact today health “insurance” really
does not do what insurance was designed to do. Today, health insurance
is looked at to pay for virtually anything and everything related to
health care — and it is priced accordingly.
If auto insurance were regarded this way, it would cover oil changes,
tires, regular maintenance, fuel, car washes, windshield wiper blades,
and likely annual professional cleaning. Imagine the cost of that insurance!
Why has health insurance gotten out of control? It has a lot to do
with government involvement. Until the advent of Medicare, government
had a relatively small role in private health care. Health insurance
was exactly that — insurance. People paid for regular health care
needs out of pocket, including prescriptions.
If we want to fix “health care insurance,” we must return
to what insurance is intended to do — insure against the major and
unexpected events — rather than fund everything that happens
to us. In addition, we need to implement tort reform and the Food and
Drug Administration’s drug approval process.
The alternative is the 100% Solution. If you like the way Social Security,
Medicare, Medicaid, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veterans Administration,
and our national debt has been handled, then rest assured the same
people want to totally manage your health care.
A Voice from Fly-Over
A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2009 by Robert
L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin
All rights reserved.
Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law
School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit
public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved
in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways
to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.
See a complete biographical sketch.
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