Where We Are Going: Expanding Private Care
A theory common among those that believe strongly in the market is that if we wait long enough, market corrections through supply and demand will cause the price of private insurance to come down to a level where everyone can get coverage for a good price. We are starting to see the possibilities for this solution to take place with the rise of companies like Assurant Health who sell individual and family policies directly to citizens without employer involvement. They sell temporary and long-term health coverage to self-employed, unemployed, and other people who do not get enough health coverage from their employers. With the demand for health insurance going up, companies will be forced to provide more options at better prices to stay competitive in the market. Introducing the government into this competition would give an unfair advantage to the government because they have more press coverage and tax dollars to operate with. This might cause the private insurance sector to go under because they cannot afford to compete with the government and would undermine that the American free market economic system. However, in times of economic turmoil, insurance companies might be forced to cut jobs and coverage in order to stay in business and continue to function as a company. People would lose part of their coverage when the economy is down just when they need the most relief from healthcare expenses. This plan would have a minimal effect on tax payers because everyone would be paying for their own individual healthcare plans and so there would be no need for an increase in taxes.
National Healthcare Plan
A “national healthcare plan” is an ambiguous term by most standards because there are so many ways to provide a nationally run healthcare plan. This could be run similar to the program that exists in the United Kingdom where all healthcare is provided directly from the government with no insurance necessary. Citizens of the U.K. go to government run clinics and hospitals and no money changes hands. In Canada, they provide their national healthcare differently. Canada decided to institute a government insurance program, so that citizens go to private doctors and hospitals, but the services they receive are paid for with public government funds. The system adopted by the United States would probably be closer to the Canadian system because it more closely resembles our current system.
This system would work similar to the current U.S. Postal Service. This service would be provided to everyone at minimal direct cost to the person, because most of the cost associated with running the program would be taken out of tax dollars. People would have the option to opt out of the program in order to purchase their own private insurance similar to how citizens can choose to ship mail with UPS, FedEx, or similar private mail carrier systems. The coverage of healthcare by tax dollars would be positive because it would not rely on the current economic state of the person needing service. The coverage could be guaranteed by the government in times of economic troubles so citizens would not be in danger of losing their coverage because of insurance companies protecting their bottom lines. This would have higher levels of confidence in healthcare protection during recessions. Changing government administrations with different views of how best to provide coverage might lead to some level of instability every time America changes leadership. To implement any type of national healthcare plan would require a relatively large tax increase in order to fund healthcare for everyone.
The Public School Model
Between the two extremes we have already covered, I propose that there is a compromise. If we relate the national healthcare plan to the U.S. Postal Service, then the compromise plan might best be compared to our public school system. The United States should consider a plan so that, starting with prenatal care, all healthcare is covered by some national plan for all children. Under this plan, new parents will not have to worry about adding new people to their private employer-sponsored insurance or to worry about having to choose between food for their children and health insurance. This plan could be strictly age based or require verification of enrollment in school similar to driver’s license privileges. The plan would encourage providing solid education and healthcare through their early lives so that our children grow up to be healthy, educated, and ready to enter the American workforce where they will receive employer-sponsored benefits. This would maintain the private insurance market, although changing the target customers. Parents would be able to get more comprehensive coverage for themselves instead of minimal coverage for the whole family.
Parents who want to include their children because their employers provide comprehensive coverage at a competitive rate and they have the income to cover them, would be able to opt out of the program just as they are able to opt out of public schools by sending their children to private schools. Taxes would have to be levied for these services, but not to the extent necessary for a full nationwide healthcare plan. Taxes could be paid in a manner similar to school taxes where they are collected and distributed at the local level so that each city or county could use the money in a way that was most consistent with the health needs of children in the area. This would hopefully prevent any kind of delay between the collection of funds and the payment of doctors and nurses for their service to the children of America.