A Few Questions About Healthcare

Mr. Robert McCreary, NPHS Social Studies Teacher

With the presidential election of 2012 approaching quickly, many of the problems that we are currently facing in society will be talked about over the next year as the parties debate and nominate their candidates.  Healthcare is likely to be one of those issues once again.  President Obama has introduced his version of change in that industry.  It is commonly referred to as Obamacare.  It remains to be seen how the US Supreme Court will rule on the eventual constitutionality of the legislation but until then, the debate will roll along.


I am no expert on the health care industry nor am I an expert on the complexities of how the costs of medical care are paid for by insurance companies.  That being said, I do have some general questions about all this.  Maybe someone can comment with some answers.  Here they are:


  1. Why do people say we have a health “care” problem?  We have the best healthcare in the world.  People from all over the world come here because it is the best on earth. Don’t we really have a health “cost” problem?  Finding solutions to a health “cost” problem is very different than finding solutions to a health “care” problem.
  2. Why is health insurance so different from other types of insurances?  All other insurances just pay for “high cost, unexpected emergencies” that pop up in life.  Car insurance pays for accidents.  It doesn’t pay for general maintenance like gas, oil changes, inspection, new tires, wipers, etc.  Homeowners insurance pays for major damage of some kind to your home.  It doesn’t pay for general maintenance like painting, remodeling, yearly services to heaters and such.  But for some reason, we expect health insurance to pay for practically everything.  Medicine, dental check-ups and cleanings, yearly physical exams and eye exams and many others.  Why?  None of those are either “unexpected” or “emergencies.”  They are planned activities, sometimes planned months in advance, that are basically general maintenance for the body. 
  3. Why do doctors and health insurance companies not have commercials?  If you watch primetime TV for more than 15 minutes, you will undoubtedly see multiple car insurance commercials featuring geckos, cavemen, Snoopy, and others all claiming to offer the best service and the lowest prices for consumers.  “Five minutes could save you $500” brags one of them.  “Accident forgiveness” is part of another.  It’s obvious why they do this.  They want you to buy their insurance and have to offer incentives (low prices and/or better quality and service) to do so.  Why do we never see a dentist on TV saying “Buy two cleanings and get one free!”  or a pediatrician commercial offering “free physical exams for all your kids if you sign up for a one year family plan agreement!”  Why do you never see a hospital offer a “lowest price guarantee” for x-rays?  I’m no economist but I think if costs are the issue, insert more competition.  It works for every other industry.  I think even a caveman would understand that.
  4. Why are employers expected to provide health insurance?  We don’t expect them to provide / pay for our car insurance or home owner’s insurance and things work out just fine.  So why health insurance?


As I said, I am no doctor or economist nor do I have any work experience in the healthcare industry.  It just seems to me that solving the healthcare(cost) problem may involve answering some or all of these questions.


But what do I know?  I’m just a teacher.