Archive for August 2nd, 2009

by JC

Thought for the day: why would I want to risk my health on the same sort of mechanism that fuels the likes of Powerball and slot machines?

Everyday millions of people pay money into a racket, hoping that one day they will be able to reap the rewards of spending their hard earned dollars. No, I’m not talking about gambling–though I could. I’m talking about health insurance.

Having health insurance is like gambling in a casino or paying Powerball. Except gambling or Powerball is a lot more regulated and the chances that you will be screwed by casino or the Lottery are zero to none. With legalized gambling, you know what you are getting: a slim chance that you will make a little more money than you spend, and a far slimmer chance that you might hit it big.

But with health insurance, you can pay in tens of thousands of dollars, and get back little in return, hoping that some day, when you need it, that you will get a return on your investment. Except with health insurance, there are thousands of ways that the insurance industry has gamed the system to prevent that. Think about the Vegas casino that might rig the table, or the Lottery commission that reads all of the purchased numbers, only to intentionally pick something other than yours, in order to not have to pay the jackpot. That’s health insurance today.

Health insurance is a gamble. Not a gamble that you may get injured or sick some day and need health care, that’s inevitable. It is a gamble that when you need it (if you can get it), that you’ll actually be able to use it. Or afford to use it, what with all of the outrageous deductibles, copays, exclusions, pre-existings, underpayments and caps.

That’s why the philosophy behind HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act introduced by Rep. John Conyers is to eliminate health insurance, and to replace it with a single payer system funded primarily by an employee payroll tax.

I think often about all of the money I’ve thrown into slot machines and wasted on Powerball or playing cards. It’s not a lot, I’d say, as I’m not much a gambling man. But if I were to have put it all in the bank at a modest return for the last 35 years, I’d probably be able to take a few months off and go on a nice trip.

Likewise, if I were able to take all of the money I’ve spent on insurance, and have not utilized, I’d be able to have invested it, had my self-insured needs covered, and been able to have fun with the rest.

Except that isn’t the way our system has evolved. I could have paid ten’s or hundreds of thousands in health insurance expenses, and used little of them, only to loose my investment by losing my insurance policy due to job loss, changing jobs, or rescission.

In this way, our “modern” system of health insurance is no better than gambling. Better a system where our money is invested in our own future health security needs, and not just gambled away. And that is just what a single payer system, like HR 676 does. As with Medicare and Social Security, or unemployment insurance, our money is invested for our own future use, at a time when we are most likely to need it.

Just like my piggy bank that should have kept all of those dollars I spent on slots and Powerball.

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