universal healthcare

Some Thoughts on Healthcare/ Health Insurance

There has been much discussion regarding Obama’s Health Insurance proposal lately.  I find most of it disturbing in that it seems to be a big power grab by the government instead of a solution.  To name a few problems…

  1. Forcing people to have an insurance policy even though they may be able to self-insure – or pay a 2.5% tax/penalty.

  2. Forcing companies into having health insurance plans – or pay a 8% payroll tax/penalty.

  3. Loss of freedom to choose what is in your plan or potentially your doctor.

  4. Loss of ability to get discounts for a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t believe this plan will do a whole lot to fix the root problem, which is the costs of healthcare.  The high costs of health insurance are a symptom of the root problem, not the actual problem.

Some things that could be done to help the problem…

  1. Reduce rules on the healthcare and insurance industry.  The federal and state governments could relax their policies regarding the medical industry.  Open up markets for all insurance companies to actively compete (this is a big issue here in Vermont, where we have very few health insurance providers, 2 that I can think of). Make it easier for people to practice medicine and for people to seek care from who they want.  Make the heavy licensing of medical practioners and hospitals optional in order to operate.

  2. Make the FDA approval process optional.  Here in the US, we get access to new drugs or medical devices many years after others in the rest of world due to the lengthy bureaucratic process of FDA approval, which can take 10 years to get.  Also, the process is so expensive that only the largest companies can afford to participate and only ideas that are very complicated or are expected to have a high retail cost are submitted for approval.  Why couldn’t the government make the FDA approval optional and allow other firms to offer their own approval or seal and compete with the FDA.  This would allow much cheaper forms of healthcare to be available.

  3. Promote the benefits of healthy eating and proper exercise.  There is strong evidence that most of our health issues are due to bad diets, not enough exercise as well as improper dental hygiene.  I have been guilty of this myself and it wasn’t until I lost my health insurance that I began to be concerned about these issues.  Since I’ve lost my health insurance, I have done the following…

    1. Lost about 66 pounds.
    2. Fixed 18 teeth and began brushing up to 3 times a day and flossing everyday.

    3. Modified diet dramatically, currently making the main focus on vegetables, fruits, almonds and whole wheat grains.

    4. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day (on average).

    5. Reduced risky behaviors – such as less risky bike riding and wearing seat belts more regularly. 

In doing so, I believe I have improved my health dramatically by making these changes which I probably wouldn’t have done if not for the loss of my cheap health insurance.  Perhaps that’s part of the problem… if so many people are getting cheap or free health insurance from the government or their employers, what incentive is there to be concerned about your health if you know everything can be fixed for a low cost or nothing in some cases?  Wouldn’t it make sense to at least allow discounts for good healthy habits or for scoring well on health tests?  Or perhaps allowing them to charge extra for risky behaviors/jobs, such as downhill skiing or logging?

I realize this can be a very emotional and scary issue for most people.  Everyone wants good quality care for as little as impossible.  No one like to pay for insurance if they are not sure they will need it.  At this time, I am currently trying to get on a health insurance plan that is affordable to my wife and I, which can be quite difficult here in Vermont where the choices are so very limited.

The idea or mystic of a very comprehensive healthcare/health insurance program that covers everyone for little cost sounds very attractive, but the reality is that the government running such a program will be very risky and I believe would end up being at least as expensive as our current system and will be far more intrusive.  If the government is running the program, what would stop them from placing far more limits on our activities to keep costs down… they probably won’t do that right away, but think 10 or 20 years down the road, when they’ve reached their taxation or premium limitations.  Look at anything else the government runs, it’s only a matter of time before the programs go under-funded and need to increase rates or tax rates just to keep up with payments.  At this point, the government will be forced to put limits on our behavior, which is already beginning with smoking and trans fat bans.  Why wouldn’t this increase with the government taking over healthcare/health insurance?  My wife and I are now living a much better lifestyle where we don’t eat much unhealthy food or engage in drinking or smoking or other behaviors considered unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for the government to force our lifestyle on others and I certainly would like to be able to get the occasional fatty burger and fries from when I want to.

So, I firmly believe that a government takeover of the healthcare industry will not signifantly reduce the costs in the long run, if at all, will limit our choices and most likely result a huge loss of personal freedoms.

Bangor Maine Makes It Illegal to Smoke in Cars

No SmokingThe Bangor Maine city council recently approved a smoking ban in vehicles where kids are present. This is just another step further of government taking more rights away. It’s obvious that the anti-smoking activists simply want smoking banned across the board, but they know they cannot get it banned outright all at once. They need to go in steps.

First, you get smoking banned in the workplace, then restaurants, then private clubs, then cars with children, then all commercial property, including apartments and so on and so until finally there is no place left for smokers to smoke. This is obviously the end goal.

Why does the government care so much about smoking? Activists claim it has to do with protecting workers and customers of businesses where smokers might patron and it’s a public health issue. I think that because state and local governments are wanting to take over healthcare through different universal healthcare proposals, such as Vermont’s Catamount Health, there is strong pressure on legislators and city councilors to reduce risks that citizens take in order to reduce the costs of running a government sponsored healthcare system.

Combining your government and your healthcare provider is extremely risky if you value your freedoms to engage in behavior that society may feel is risky such as smoking, sex, fatty foods, high-carb foods, caffeine, drinking, over-eatting, driving, travel, sports, and any number of other things people do on a regular basis that increase your risk to needing health services. With Catamount Health launching I would expect that there will be more and more restrictions on what we can do in Vermont. I for one do not want my insurance company being in charge of what I can and cannot do.

Unfortunately, when many people hear that government will “give” them something for free or at lower cost, they are quick to take it not realizing that anytime you give up a certain responsibility (such as getting your own healthcare coverage) there are almost always some rights given up. There’s ALWAYS a cost… or there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The big question is at what point will citizens put their foot down and say enough is enough? Hopefully, not before it’s too late.

Vermont’s Latest Tax Hike Scheme

FreedomWorks Vermont recently sent out an email alert regarding the recent proposed tax hike on cigarettes. The Vermont legislature is currently considering a tobacco tax hike under the guise that it will “pay for health care reform.”

It is believed that this proposed increase is nothing more than the “bait” in a bait and switch tactic designed to put Vermont on an irreversible path toward government-run, taxpayer funded health care.

Some facts Vermonters need to know about tobacco taxes:

  • This tax (H.663/S.287) would increase the cost of cigarettes by 60 cents to $1.79 per pack.
  • Cigarette taxes are regressive, hitting the poor hardest. 
  • Cigarette taxes cause revenue to leave the state.
  • Cigarette tax increases are notorious for pushing customers into the black market, which hurts small business owners from grocers to restaurateurs. 
  • UVM economist Art Woolf calculated that Vermont border counties already lost $432 million in retail sales – and Vermonters have 3,120 fewer jobs — in 2002 alone because of taxes and regulations. “Those jobs and sales went to New Hampshire…,” according to Wolf.

Please click here for the full email.  They also have a petition you can sign.

Ward 4 & 7 NPA

During the legislative reports Mark Larsen informed us that the legislature is looking into an income tax to fund our public education system. He also told us that there are problems with the state corrections budget. The state is $10 million over budget. It was discussed within the NPA of how it currently costs us $25,000-$40,000 per inmate, per year to keep them in state an only $20,000 to send them out-of-state. Someone suggested sending more of offenders out-of-state to save money. The majority of these offenders are for drug abuse and women population is growing the fastest.

The main discussion topic was Healthcare. John Tracy, Mark Larsen and an AARP representative gave presentations all praising the current universal healthcare proposal. Basically, the proposal is for every Vermonter to pay 3% of their income for health insurance. If you or your employer pay 3% or more for your private health insurance you will be left alone. If you pay less than 3% or don’t have health insurance at all you will pay the difference to the state. For example, if you are currently paying 1% of your income for health insurance, you will need to pay the remaining 2% to the state.

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