Mike Huckabee makes an unintentional point:
“It sounds so good, and it’s such a warm message to say we’re not gonna deny anyone from a preexisting condition,” Huckabee explained at the Value Voters Summit today. “Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, “I’d like to buy some insurance for my house.” He’d say, “Tell me about your house.” “Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I’d like to insure it today.” And he’ll say “I’m sorry, but we can’t insure it after it’s already burned.” Well, no preexisting conditions.”
He’s on to something. It makes no sense to insure somebody who is already sick. That’s why the health insurance industry hasn’t traditionally offered plans to sick people. The government can’t very well come along and force a private business to make a business decision that is guaranteed to lose them money. So, what’s the solution?
The individual mandate is the solution. By compelling all people to buy coverage, the insurance industry gains enough new, healthy planholders that it makes up for the cost of insuring those with pre-existing conditions. What’s the problem with that? Well, now the government is requiring us to become the customer of a private for-profit health insurance provider. Some of us don’t believe in for-profit health insurance and we resent the hell out of having to become their customers. That’s why we demanded a public option that would serve as an alternative to the private insurers. We didn’t get that, and so we’re pretty dissatisfied with the health care reform bill.
But the individual mandate and the public option were already suboptimal solutions. As Huckabee points out, it doesn’t make sense to insure people against getting sick, since many of us are already sick. Hell, we’re almost all going to get sick before we die. It’s as if we knew with certainty that all our homes were going to burn down in the next fifty to sixty years. Recognizing our shared mortality, it makes sense to simply cover everyone’s health needs rather than to insure against them. Here’s what you do.
You pay into a health care fund while you are of working age. When you need medical attention, you go get it. To prevent overuse of the system, you have small co-payments. Rather than paying doctors for each procedure they perform, you pay them for how efficiently they provide for the health of their patients. If they convince you to eat better, exercise, and quit smoking, they make more money rather than less (as it stands now). This is basically a Medicare-for-All plan with some elements of the British health care system thrown in.
People are not houses. I don’t know how Mike Huckabee ever developed a world-view that sees people and houses as interchangeable. Some of us are blessed with good health, while others struggle with chronic pain and disease. We never know when we might jump from the first group to the second, so we ought to be humble and support a system that provides for all of us in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Health insurance has no necessary role in this, and it certainly doesn’t contribute to increased quality or better cost-efficiency. It just creates a wholly unnecessary middle-man. Imagine if you not only had to pay for Medicare, but you had to put an extra $100 in the mail to AETNA just to gain access to your Medicare. That’s what our current system effectively asks us to do. No one benefits except for the people the private insurers happen to employ and the shareholders in those companies.
So, yes, the Health Care Reforms were nice, and it’s great that people with preexisting conditions can now gain access to health care that won’t force them into bankruptcy, but we can do so much better than concocting some bizarre system that has to account for the fact that people are not houses.