Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Questions of Health

I don’t know a heck of a lot about health care, HMO’s, and insurance. I have a little card in my wallet that has my insurance information on it, but since it’s one of my fringe benefits and since I’m single and in pretty good health, I don’t think about it very much. But in one of our recent lunchtime walks, Bob and I got to talking about it, and I came up with some questions:

  • Why does health insurance cost so much? The doctors blame the insurance companies for high malpractice rates, the insurance companies blame trial lawyers for high malpractice judgements, and both of them blame “the system.” But if news reports are to be believed, malpractice claims and judgements are actually down, and they were never as high as the insurance companies claim.
  • Why shouldn’t HMO’s be non-profit corporations? That doesn’t mean they can’t make money; it would be that any money they make over their costs and salaries would go into paying for the health care for those who can’t. It would also allow them to accept charitable donations, set up foundations, and pay fewer taxes. In return, they would be expected to contribute to the well-being of the citizens. Are there any HMO’s that are currently using this model?
  • How much different would the Canadian model of single-payer health insurance be than what we already have in place? Contrary to popular mythology, Canadians do not have “national” health care per se; it’s on a provincial basis, it doesn’t cover everything, and there are still “private” medical practices for those who elect to use them. Canadian readers, this is your chance to explain the good and the bad of your systems.
  • The Schiavo case has raised the question as to whether health care is a right in this country. If it is, doesn’t the government have a duty to insure that everyone has access to medical care when we’re ill, just as we have a right to a lawyer when we’re arrested?

    Like I said, I don’t know a lot about this issue. That’s why I’m asking.