Insurance is for disasters
Insurance policies have traditionally been used to protect us from disasters. When they are used to pay for everyday expenses, costs become excessive unless strictly rationed. I believe we come out ahead to buy insurance for major medical expenses only, and use the money thus saved to pay for annual check-ups and ordinary expenses. This way we can have the freedom to purchase the care we individually require without the bureaucratic friction that drives up the cost of medicine.
Health savings accounts give you control
Health Savings Accounts are the best way for us to have maximum control over our health care choices at minimum expense. These combine
- the Health Savings Account itself, into which you put pre-tax dollars
- an insurance policy to cover major medical expenses, also paid with pre-tax dollars
You may use the Health Savings Account to spend on your regular medical and dental expenses, including medications. You add to the account each year. The account gains interest tax-free. Unused amounts carry over from year to year. Should any money be left at retirement, it can be transferred into your IRA.
Currently, federal regulations require a health insurance policy with an individual deductible in the range of $2500. For people able to self-insure a bit more, a higher deductible amount would provide a significant premium reduction, but is opposed by proponents of a universal health care system.
There are many uninsured people who might find a government-subsidized or sponsored Health Savings Account empowering. By giving that person a stake in the cost of medical care, there is a high probability the net taxpayer cost would be less than with any other plan.
See below for availability of Health Savings Accounts.
Health system regulation is failing
Government authorities may tell you that government regulation is necessary to "protect the consumer."Currently, all that government oversight seems only to be perpetuating a dinosaur of a health-care system.Deregulation brought reduced prices to the trucking and airline industries with no increase in accident rate; it can do the same for health care. It was not "deregulation" that led to the California energy crisis of early 2001, rather price-fixing by the California legislature. This encouraged over-consumption and under-supply of power. Price-fixing in the Medicare system and in the Canadian health care system is having the same effect.
Washington State mistakes in insurance regulations
Insurance options in Washington State are improving under the guidance of the new Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler. Previously, regulations required coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. A rational response would be "why pay for insurance now? I feel fine. I can always buy it if I get sick." Enough people behaved rationally that the insurance companies lost too much money to continue. A woman could get pregnant, start her $200 per month payments three months before delivery, and cancel the insurance once she'd had her baby. Not a paying prospect for the insurance company. You'd think the legislature could have figured this out in advance. They did not. Now, however, a more reasonable nine-month waiting period is required for an insurance company to cover a condition you knew you had when you bought the policy. Because of this, insurance companies are returning to the state. (If you think nine months is too long, remember that if you buy homeowners insurance after you have damage to your house, that insurance will never cover the damage you already had. Which may be why such insurance is more affordable than health insurance.)
Please also be aware that the Washington law requires all medical insurance sold in this state cover alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, and traditional pharmaceutical medicine and surgery. If you wish the less expensive option of picking and choosing among the various options available to you, Washington State will not let you do it. (Thank goodness that they do not regulate the automobile industry this way. In their zeal to "look out for the consumer's interest," you would have only one choice, a Mercedes.)
Here are some choices that give you more control over costs and services:
Health Savings Account - available through Brent Shirley Insurance (360-385-4400).
Major medical policy through most agents including Wilson Insurance (385-0005) and Homer Smith Insurance (385-3711).
Agribus policy for self-employed people. Check with your accountant or Charles Kanieski if your own accountant can't help you.
Check with your own agent for a list of companies that will let you pay us and then submit the claim to them. Companies used by our patients include:
- Retail Clerks Welfare Trust
- Principal Financial
- Washington Teamsters Welfare Trust
- Inland Boatman's Union (IBU)
- Mail Handlers
- Carpenters Trust
- John Alden
- General American
- Anthem Health
- Uniform Medical
- Blue Cross - payment depends on your policy
- Many other indemnity insurance companies
If you would like to learn more
Why We Spend Too Much On Health Care: And What We Can Do About It by Joseph L Bast, is available through any bookstore. The real facts about health care costs are a great deal more helpful than the hype you hear in the media and from some of our elected officials.