July 12, 2007
The Free Market Cure Made Us Less SickoBy Kyle-Anne Shiver
It doesn't take a genius, or even a public policy analyst to figure out that what we already have with giant HMO's and "Managed Care" companies is a dim preview of the fiasco that a single-payer system of Nannystate care would inevitably produce. And I'm not just talking about low quality, inefficiency, less availability and perhaps an even higher price tag. There is a very good argument that the more that somebody else pays your medical bills, the more Sicko you will be.
At least that's the actual result I have seen in our own family. For a number of years, we had "umbrella" health insurance, provided by my husband's corporate employer. It paid nearly the full cost of every single healthcare item in our family budget, including dental work. Our coverage even extended to eyeglasses and the hearing aids for our deaf son. It even covered therapy and pills if we got depressed. That insurance was the biggest umbrella we ever had, and we used it whether the rainy day was a real gusher or merely a sprinkle. Even a little mist in the air would see us raising that umbrella.
I found myself running to the doctor every time one of our children so much as sneezed twice. Every time any of us had the slightest fall, I insisted on emergency-room visits and full-tilt x-rays. A fever of any degree became absolutely intolerable and always justified a doctor's visit. Our son had meningitis at age 3, and that experience alone kept my motherly alarm system set perpetually at Code Red, but having all of that lovely insurance played a big part in enabling my over-indulgence.
I'll never forget the time our daughter had a fever that spiked on a Saturday. I rushed her to a packed emergency room, waited six hours for "treatment" and finally left happily with the diagnosis, "viral infection," and a simple instruction for cure: "Take Tylenol." The bill was $1,248. And I thanked my husband's god-like employer for all that heavenly insurance.
That was then.
For the past 15 years, both my husband and I have been self-employed and have thus chosen the most economical health insurance available to individuals. It is a Blue Cross policy with a $10,000 per year, per person deductible that is obviously meant to provide catastrophic medical coverage. And that's all. Everything else - from sore throats and skin rashes to sprained ankles and stitches-needed cuts - we pay for out of the vacation fund or the home improvement fund, or even the grocery fund, if family health problems arise during a bad business month.
The first three years without that umbrella health insurance cost us the proverbial arm and two legs. Our new reality - and the steeply rising cost of healthcare - forced us to reevaluate. We either had to change our ways or give up our house just to pay the doctor. We changed. Big time.
The first thing we did was get back to basics. We - like most other folks we knew - were the beneficiaries of a wealth of common knowledge about staying healthy from parents and grandparents. They didn't need obscenely expensive studies to tell them that if you wanted to stay well - and keep the doctor away - you had to eat "right," gets lots of exercise, sleep plenty and use care when operating machinery or climbing a ladder. You also had to avoid obviously sick people whenever possible, always wash your hands after using the restroom and before meals, and never, ever drink things like Drano. Those generations weren't overly fond of medicines either, which they were prone to call "drugs," and thought they should be used very cautiously and only when the benefit was certain to outweigh the "bad." Take a pill to sleep? My grandfather would have accused me of being a drug addict (and an idiot to boot!) Every one of these things was known long, long, long, long before the first researcher donned a surgical mask and fleeced the public to tell us so.
Once our family was forced to pay the real price a few times for "forgetting" everything we knew about basic health, we suddenly "remembered," and quickly changed our habits. We explained to our children that from now on, our family would concentrate on staying healthy - not being Sicko. We even incentivized the program. Everyone (ourselves included) got a spending-money bonus in the budget for perfect compliance with the basic health rules and punitive deductions for "forgetting." And we instituted new - very strict - guidelines for seeking professional "cures." In the first year of our new program, we reduced our healthcare expenditure by a whopping 98%.
But the old "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has saved us in other, even more important, ways as well. When we taught our children about sex and our abstinence expectations, we stressed morality first, according to our Catholic faith. But in a very close second came our strenuous admonitions about those horrific, many deadly, ST-diseases! And to this day our children tell us that their fear of "death by sex" kept them on the straight and narrow path much, much more than their fear of hell. Immorality, they knew, could be forgiven on any given Saturday, but an ST-disease might make them infertile, plague them for life or even kill them before they had a real chance to live! Just imagine a medical system freed from the needed treatment for the more than 4,000 already-identified ST-diseases.
It would really take a book for me to enumerate all of the benefits we have reaped from our changed focus to merely staying healthy. And our children, now grown, are continuing on that path, which is essentially the same one trod by our parents and grandparents and all of those many generations before them.
That our Nation is now facing a healthcare (or is it health cost?) crisis is undeniable. Most pols are beginning to hawk their own "cures" to much fanfare. And our family, too, has a keen interest in reforming the system, because the setup we have now revolves around an inflated volume of Sicko people using "umbrella" insurance at the expense of folks like us who are forced to subsidize all of those "contract rates" by paying full price.
Those of us who are not in the Nanny Health Care System have to take care of ourselves. If we get so sick that we must see a doctor, then we know up front that the cost in dollars will be what we consider absurdly disproportionate to the actual service provided, and that it will be demanded in cash and in full immediately. We also know that because of all the folks using the doctor for every ache or sniffle, the waiting room will be packed, the staff will be grumpy and resentful, and the doctor will be rushed.
When anyone is forced to accept a 2-hour wait to see a doctor for 4 minutes, who more often than not gets the wrong diagnosis on the first few hits, and he is also forced to pay cash in amounts from $200 to $500 for a simple prescription for antibiotics, then he is going to do everything humanly possible to make that a very, very rare occasion. And we do. But people sometimes do get sick, no matter what. And we are positive that if we were buying our healthcare in a truly free market, and not having to compete with mega-contract-buyers - insurance companies - then everyone would be getting better service for less cash.
That's why I support the Free Market Cure for our healthcare crisis. If each of us does his part by being as responsibly healthy as he can, thereby decreasing demand, and the market does its part by being forced to re-focus on quality service instead of quantity, then our de-humanizing, assembly-line medical industry will go the way of the dinosaur. As it ought to, in my opinion.
And in the bargain, we all get to be a lot less Sicko and have more time to enjoy our lives.
On the other hand, if we opt for Michael Moore's pseudo-utopian fix, the system itself might seem less Sicko, but we the people stand to be a whole lot more Sicko. That's not what I call "progressive." That's what I call Super-Duper-Sicko.