Here’s a crazy idea: we need to change the American health care system.
No doubt you’ve heard that a few times this year. But Eugene Robinson thinks he’s discovered a new and amusing angle. “If you haven’t heard the name Sue Lowden, brace yourself,” the columnist wrote in The Washington Post. She’s a Republican bidding to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.
Robinson concludes she must be a wacko. After all, last month she declared patients should “go ahead and barter with your doctor” as a way to lower health care costs.
“Let’s change the system and talk about what the possibilities are,” Lowden told a television interviewer. “I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say ‘I’ll paint your house’.”
Robinson dismisses the idea, calling it “chickens for check-ups.” And let’s grant that few doctors are going to accept livestock as payment, especially since few patients likely have any to offer.
But, know what we DO have to offer? Cash. You know, green bills with pictures of dead white men on them. It’s not crazy to suggest that patients ought to start paying directly for their health care. In fact, it may be the only way to control costs.
For most Americans, the problem isn’t a lack of health insurance. At least 85 percent of us already have it. The problem is that, because an insurance company pays the bills, we have no real concept how much health care should cost. In many cases, treatment is “free” to us after a small deductible.
Consider how this differs from, say, car insurance, which President Obama cited as an example during his February summit. Car owners carry insurance hoping they’ll never need to use it.
But suppose auto insurance paid for gasoline (after a 25 cent per gallon deductible) and that your employer “paid for” your auto insurance as part of your wage. Nobody would care whether gas cost $3.00 a gallon or $30.00. Everyone would buy the biggest car possible and feel free to leave the engine running all the time. After all, the fuel would seem virtually free.
Sadly, that’s how health insurance works. Nobody has any idea what anything costs, and costs keep going up. Of course, lawmakers have a plan to fix that latter problem. Led by Harry Reid they passed ObamaCare, which is supposed to “cover the uninsured” and “bend the cost curve” down.