An inconvenient truth about health insurance

Mike Pringle at Healthcare Today wonders about the effect of today’s election on health care:

Will we see a true reform of our current healthcare system that promises improved access and one that offers insurance to all regardless of medical history or discrimination for preexisting conditions?

Offering health insurance to everybody regardless of history or preexisting conditions?  Didn’t we just offer mortgages to everybody regardless of history or preexisting conditions?  Didn’t that trigger the recent global financial meltdown?

We need to try to reduce the cost of health care and increase access to health care.  That’s  not quite synonymous with making health insurance universal.  The unpleasant fact is that insurance works when the vast majority of people who sign up for it don’t really need it.

I pay for homeowners insurance, yet my house only sustains trivial and inexpensive storm damage once every few years.  The same is true for most of my fellow policy holders.  That means that the relatively rare exception — the poor fellow policy holder whose house burns to the ground — gets his house rebuilt because the pooled money from the other policy holders is there for him.

But in regards to health care, we are now in the Chronic Condition Era.  Imagine if half the homeowners insured by a given insurance company found their homes damaged or destroyed several times a year.  That’s what’s happening to health insurance as larger and larger subsets of the population develop more and more hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and other chronic conditions.

There are no easy answers and I suspect that we will ultimately have to change our health care financing system at a more fundamental level than simply reforming the existing business models.

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