This is how we can have a rational conversation about health insurance. Ask yourself and everyone you know three questions:
1. What percentage of your annual income do you spend on health care costs?*
2. How many people does that cover?
3. What do you think is a reasonable percentage?
My husband and I (both self-employed) spend about 20% of our income on health insurance and medical costs. How about you?
One more question: Should all Americans have access to affordable health care like we have access to water, electricity, & education?
Here is what I think.
There was a time in America when education was totally private: people who wanted their children to go to school paid for it. Eventually, Americans decided that public education was such an incredible public good, i.e., something everyone benefits from, that we moved to a taxpayer-funded system of education, open to all. And, of course, there are still private schools for families who want to make that choice.
There was a time in America when clean water and electricity were available only to the wealthy. The poor pulled up water from wells or dipped buckets into dirty rivers, and lit their homes with candles and lanterns because they had no choice. (My father-in-law, who died in July, did not have electricity on his street until he was 10 years old.)
Our fellow citizens argued and grumbled, but eventually decided that it was a benefit to the entire nation if all Americans had access to water and electricity. So programs were put in place, funded in part by taxpayers and in part by consumers, to make that happen.
Now the debate has turned to health insurance. My grandparents did not have it when they were young. In the middle of the last century, it became a widespread job benefit, and programs were put in place to insure the vulnerable; elderly, poor and disabled people. (The other place you are guaranteed health care is in prison.)
In the past three generations, insurance has moved from the privilege of the rich to something that most Americans consider a basic part of life, like education, electricity, and water.
I am all about capitalism. I love capitalism. I am a small business owner and so is my husband and it’s working for us. Almost.
One of our three adult kids doesn’t have insurance. Another one will lose her coverage in three months. My friends who are out of work have no insurance. People who might take the plunge into small business ownership don’t because they are afraid to leave their job and give up their health insurance. Americans die and suffer needlessly every day because health care in this country has become a trip to the roulette wheel.
The time has come for us to agree that all Americans deserve basic health care coverage – the same for all people in all states. If you want a fancier program with bells and whistles, you can pay extra. The insurance companies have to buck up. When your service is considered a public good – a public necessity – you have to trade in outrageous short-term profits for long-term secure cash flow.
*Health care costs = insurance premiums, co-pays, out-of-pocket expenses
PS – Check out this comparison of our system to Japan’s.
PPS – Are you sure that what you pay for will be enough? According to a 2007 article in the New York Times, "an estimated three-quarters of people who are pushed into personal bankruptcy by medical problems actually had insurance when they got sick or were injured."
PPPS – Yes, this stills counts as a microblog because much of this is taken from a blog entry from several months ago.