“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Thursday, March 4

Healthcare Debate

Since this isn't really tech related, I've been staying mum on this issue. After listening to a local talk radio host discuss it this-morning, I'd like to give my thoughts on it.

First, I'm not going to really go into the current plan or the alternative plans. I want to discuss where I think the current problems with healthcare are. Let's go through my reasoning.

1. Health insurance companies charge too much. Why? Is it purely profit driven? I believe this to be partly true, but some of the reasoning is that the cost of healthcare continuously climbs. Now, if you believe in capitalism, you believe in the rights of companies to make money. Insurance companies are not non-profit or not-for-profit organizations. They exist to perform a service in return for payment from individuals or companies. They exist to make money in return for these services. Why then are the costs continuously climbing? We're not hearing of record gains by these companies, so they must be paying more to obtain these services for their clients. They have to charge more to maintain their profit margins. Why are healthcare costs climbing?

2. Hospitals charge too much. Why? Most hospitals are for-profit institutions as well. Like insurance companies, they have a board of directors, parent companies, and shareholders that want a return on their investments. But costs are rising even for non-profit and not-for-profit hospitals. Why? Well, I believe this answer is multi-fold. First, the federal government reimbursement from various programs never matches the amounts the hospitals charge. The government figures the hospitals over-charge anyway, so they always pay less. The hospitals in response, raise their charges to break even on these transactions (and generally lose money anyway). Since they might break even - or more likely lose money - on these transactions, they have to make up for it by charging more for other services. Plus, hospitals have staff to pay, insurance to cover (with its continually rising costs), and materials to purchase. You can't re-use needles or other materials. Those cost money, and since the bulk of what they're using is made of plastic, those costs are rising. What is plastic made from? Oil. And what has the price of oil done? That's right, it's gone way up. So the price of anything made of oil has also risen (just ask your local roofing company what the cost of roofing shingles has done in the past 2 years - it's obscene). The staff certainly won't accept less money each year, which is what you would be giving them if you don't keep up with the cost of living and inflation - even though most hospital staffs certainly do so for years at a time. Healthcare workers are an incredibly dedicated bunch, but they have to feed their families, too. And hospitals have to wade through a sea of red-tape every single day, due to government regulations. Now I'm not saying regulating hospitals is a bad thing. As it stands, we have the best healthcare industry in the world. But all this costs money, no matter how generous and dedicated those professionals are.

So what can be done about it? Will further governmental regulation and new programs help control these costs? I don't see how it can.

What I see, if this healthcare bill is passed, is a lot of people out of work. Insurance companies, especially if forced, will take steps to cut costs anyway possible to maintain a profit margin. That generally means less services and job cuts.

What about hospitals? This bill pushes a lot of costs back on the hospital. But as I discussed above, the government isn't willing to pay hospitals a fair rate for their services. If the governemnt oversees ALL insurance, the hospitals will lose money hand-over-fist. This means hospitals will begin closing. More people out of work. And what's even worse about that picture, less healthcare options in communities where it's needed.

So if I'm missing something on this picture, I dearly hope someone will inform me. As I see it, this healthcare bill is a bitter pill for the American people. And according to polls, I think most would agree with me.