Americans Without Health Insurance

January 1, 2010

Q: Why does MedSave.com oppose universal health care system to eliminate the problems faced by people who are unable to get health insurance?

A: Our position is based on five points contained in the article "Covering the Uninsured: 2008 Update":

First, the issue of uninsured Americans is not really as big a problem as some people may suspect.
In 2006, there were 47 million people in the U.S. (16% of the population) who were without health insurance for at least part of that year. Both private industry and government sources agree that more than half of these people were uninsured for only part of the year, due to temporary circumstances like change of employment, periods of unemployment, starting a business, travel, moving to a new home, recent graduation or leaving a parent's plan. Most uninsured people find replacement health insurance within a matter of months. This illustrates the strength and efficiency of a free market economy than a problem with the health insurance system. About 37% of the uninsured live in households with an income over $50,000, according to a U.S. census report issued in August 2007. With so many affordable health insurance plans now available, it appears that many people simply elect to ignore the issue of health insurance, at least for short periods of time. Of course there are many people who object to the high cost of insurance, but the cost of health care is a completely separate issue than the availability of health insurance. Today's health plans allow a consumer to purchase as little or as much health insurance protection as they wish. We estimate that at least 3 out of 4 uninsured Americans could obtain health insurance without significant obstacles. 

Secondly, the proposed solution of universal health care entirely misses addressing the real problem of escalating health care costs. Our real problem is affordability, not availability, of health coverage. It is important to note this distinction in order to avoid "throwing out the baby with the bath water". Discarding the current health care system would not control health care costs. In fact, the opposite is far more likely; most reputable sources indicate that a universal health care system would increase the percentage of gross national product spent on health care.  Naturally the health care industry associations support national health care because it brings more dollars into their sector under a more stable program. 

Third, we support the position of individuals to make their own economic decisions, including the right to limit their spending on health care. We should not force Americans to spend a certain amount on heath care as would be the case in a universal health care system used in some countries. Health care should be an economic choice, not a "fundamental right" as promoted by some political groups. There is no fundamental reason why we need to provide the same "universal" level of care to everyone. In fact that would be characteristically "un-American" and more indicative of a socialist economy. Unless we take the  stance of forcing everyone to have health insurance (as was the direction recently taken by the Massachusetts state legislature), there will always be some number of people in a free market economy who choose to be uninsured by their economic purchasing decisions. Our country is based on the freedom of choice - regardless of whether our individual decisions good or bad for us - and freedom from government-imposed spending directives when it comes to personal decisions that do not affect the overall society or adversely affect others.

Fourth, we already have programs operating in every state that provide health care to those without the financial resources to pay for their own health care. Federal law known as HIPAA has been highly effective in ensuring that all Americans have access to health coverage, notwithstanding the fact that the cost issue has yet to be addressed. In other words, our current health care coverage does not protect a person who chooses to buy better housing, for example, rather than paying for health insurance. We recognize that all economic decisions in a free market economy involve some pain of benefits lost for purchases not 

Finally, we do not believe that a universal health care system would be more efficient than the current system. The basic laws of economics as well as the experiences of state governments who have tried to regulate the health plans prove that government involvement in an economy reduces efficiency and raises costs to consumers. Critics of the current health care system point to the fact that more than 30 cents of every health care dollar is spent on overhead expenses rather than providing patient care. While this is not something we should be satisfied with, it is unlikely that we could do better simply by switching a universal health care system. Popular proposals to offer better efficiency though a government-run health care are really just wishful thinking and not supported by any real world experience. There is simply no evidence to support the opinion that a universal health care system would be any better than our current health care delivery system.

None of the points in this article are meant to minimize the struggle that most Americans face in paying their health care costs. Cost of health care is a serious national issue. MedSave.com, its managers and shareholders strongly believe that improvements must be made throughout our health care system and that our role will remain consistent whether we use a private or universal health care system. But it is crucial that we distinguish the issue of high health care costs from the issue of availability of health coverage. Certainly the issue of escalating health care costs must be addressed. But the best approach to the issue of uninsured Americans is simply better consumer education of the options available and the cost/benefits aspects of health insurance purchase decisions.

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