Monday, December 17, 2007

Your Health and Politics

Health care has become a hot topic issue in the Presidential race these past two years, mostly because of Michael Moore and his wonderful "documentary" that no one watched. Except, of course, for the mainstream press (including Foxnews) and big time political analysts. It is usually these people who determine the "frontrunners" for us and prop them up to look like living gods.

So apparently the health care "issue" needs to be addressed. In a previous blog entry, I noted that 77% of people polled in a March 2007 CBS/NY Times poll were satisfied with their own health care. A much older poll conducted by ABC and the Washington Post concluded that 64% of Americans were satisfied with their health care and a clear majority had health insurance despite low income. Yes, I know, 69% were worried about their future health care costs. I am not glossing over that simple fact.

While I'm not a fan of polls, as they are probably old fashioned and don't actually represent an accurate portrayal of the true opinion of the American people. But, as Rush Limbaugh has said on his radio show in the past, politicians, especially those in Congress, are governed by polls and polling data. It is their form of job security, after all. And if politicians were to closely pay attention to those polls and look closer at the results, they would see that individual Americans are satisfied with their own health care. For conservatives in Congress, they really should use this to their advantage. They just have to ask people if they are satisfied with their own health coverage and if they are, then maybe we shouldn't overhaul the whole health care system just take care of those 33% who are not happy with their health coverage (and not necessarily those who don't have it).

But since changing the health care system is what "everyone" wants, you'll be happy to know that I know of a plan that will make people healthier and allow them to afford coverage cheaply. This the high-deductible insurance with HSA plan. HSAs are Health Savings Accounts and they are essentially savings account or mutual funds to be used only for health care costs, from dentistry to prescription drugs, that are tax-deferred (a technical term for being able to save money without facing income and payroll taxes). With the HSA, you are allowed to save money into an account and use that money to pay for your regular medical expenses, including those over-the-counter drugs like antacids and allergy medicine. What's more, it allows you to save the money you don't spend, unlike the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan, and let it grow using compound interest.

But what about people who get cancer or suffer from a heart attack or get into a serious car wreck? Well, that is what the high deductible insurance plan is for. Basically, this form of insurance is for the big things that no can possibly afford to pay out of pocket unless they've saved tons of money over a long term period or are incredibly rich (have money in their bank accounts that is in the millions). These plans usually will make you pay out the deductible and then have a stop-loss point where you will not pay more then a certain amount for the rest of the year (and some even have a lifetime maximum). After that, they will pick up the cost of your medical bills and hospitalization for the serious injury or disease you have.

So under this plan, everyone will have some level of coverage, provided that people save their money instead of spending it. But this kind of plan has other advantages too. It encourages people to make healthier decisions. As John Stossel reported back in October of this year, when Whole Foods Market switched their employees to a HSA plan five years ago, their employees actually got healthier. This is because this plan essentially makes people pay for all health care expenses out of pocket instead of relying on their insurance company. More people under this plan at Whole Foods Market went in to the doctor to get checked up and more people started to make healthier decisions in their lifestyle. After all, when you pay money for something that is completely under your control, you tend to take responsibility for it. That is, unless you are complete and utter fool.

Recently, Governor Mike Huckabee has surged to first place for the Republican nomination. While I have some reservations about Gov. Huckabee, he has expressed interest in keeping teens from smoking and eating fatty foods. What better way then to allow the free market to get easy access to these high-deductible HSA plans? After all, if parents now have pay for their own child's health care out of pocket, wouldn't they be inclined to outlaw smoking in their house and watch what foods they buy? This is something that the Governor should take note and promote, along with the FairTax plan, since the Democrats only seem to be interested in taking taxpayer dollars and paying for other people's health care. Never mind that this plan is failing in countries where it has been implemented, can you imagine the massive invasion of privacy that would entail if the government has access to your medical records without a warrant? Can you imagine the high cost on the taxpayers? If you'll check the spending for the 2006 fiscal year (link on the left column), you'll see that Medicaid and Medicare spending was a little over half a trillion dollars. Imagine how much money it would cost if we extended that kind of plan out to middle America. That is money that will be taxed. And the government is always more than happy to tax you, no matter what political party is in office.