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Thread: Control your own health care

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    Elite Member JamieElizabeth's Avatar
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    Default Control your own health care

    Opinion Editorial by John Stossel - Oct 3, 2007
    Whole Foods circumvented the health care "crisis" by giving its employees greater control. The result? Lower expenses, healthier employees, and less money thrown away on insurance.


    Candidates for president have plans to get more people health insurance. Some would compel us to buy it; others would use the tax code to encourage that. Regardless, insurance is the magic that will solve our health-care problems. But contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not those without health insurance who are the problem, but rather those with it. They make medical care more expensive for everyone.
    We’d each be better off if we paid all but the biggest medical bills out of pocket and saved insurance for catastrophic events. Truly needy people would rely on charity, not government, because once government gets involved, unintended bad consequences abound.
    If people paid their own bills, they would likely buy high-deductible insurance (roughly $1,000 for individuals, $2,100 for families) because on average, the premium is $1,300 cheaper. But people are so conditioned to expect others to pay their medical bills that they hate high deductibles: They feel ripped off if they must pay a thousand dollars before the insurance company starts paying.
    But high deductibles may be the key to lowering costs and putting you in charge of your health care.
    Five years ago, the Whole Foods grocery chain switched to a high-deductible plan. If an employee has a sore throat or a sprained ankle, he pays. But if he gets cancer or heart disease, his insurance covers it.
    Whole Foods puts around $1,500 a year into an account for each employee. It’s not charity but part of the employee’s compensation. It’s money Whole Foods would have otherwise spent on more-expensive insurance.

    Whole Foods CEO John Mackey
    Here’s the good part for employees: If they don’t spend the money on medical care this year, they keep it, and the company adds more next year.
    It’s called a health savings account, or HSA.
    CEO John Mackey told me that when he went to the new system, “Our costs went way down.”
    Yet today, some workers have $8,000 in their accounts.
    “That’s their money,” Mackey said. “It builds up over time because the money is compounding for them.”
    It will cover all sorts of future out-of-pocket expenses.
    Most important, since employees control the money, their behavior changed. Whole Foods workers started asking “how much things cost,” Mackey said. “They may not want to go to the emergency room if they wake up with a hangnail in the middle of the night. They may schedule an appointment now.”
    There was no need to ask about costs before because the insurance company seemed to pick up the tab. But that drove up costs for everyone. Now, saving money makes sense to employees because the money belongs to them.
    HSA critics ask whether individual accounts will encourage people to save money at the expense of their health.
    Mackey has the right response. “The premise in those kinds of questions is that people are stupid. They’re not smart enough to make these decisions for themselves. It’s sort of an elitist attitude. The individual is the best judge of what’s right for the individual.”
    And apparently, most individuals are making smart choices.
    Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger says studies show that “people who have these high-deductible health-insurance policies take a lot better care of themselves. They have more yearly physicals. Because they’re saying, ‘If I keep myself healthy, in the long run, I’m going to be spending less money.’”
    The critics also argue that spending on health care is too complicated and important for individuals to control.
    Mackey isn’t buying it. “Should we allow people to make decisions about whether they have children or not? I mean, that’s a pretty important responsibility!”
    I pointed out that most people know nothing about complex cancer treatments.
    “I don’t know anything about cars,” he said. “But if I buy a Toyota or an Audi or a Lexus, I know I’m going to get a pretty good automobile because competition ensures that it will be that way.”
    It does. And competition will do the same in medical care. All we need to do is put the individual in charge of his own money.
    Next week: Where competitive health care is already working.


    John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News’ “20/20” and the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media (January 2005) as well as Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know Is Wrong (May 2007), which is now available in paperback.
    Control Your Own Health Care - Ayn Rand Admirers at The Atlasphere

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    i was hospitalized in April for 7 days. when checking out they told me i had a 300 dollar co pay. when i called Health net, apparently i was getting billed for co pay by the day. i have no clue what that means. so i'm fighting it. maybe i'll send my bill to Hillary C.
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    I have this type of insurance through my employer. Basically how it works is you have a deductible. For me it's $2,000 (which I've never reached in a years time). If you are able to reach your deductible, your insurance should cover you 100%. You still pay a monthly premium for the insurance (my employer pays this) but the premium is cheaper than your typical co-pay type of insurance.

    When I go to the doctor I don't have to pay anything at that time, but the doctor will submit paperwork for that visit to the insurance company. The insurance will tell the doctor how much that visit is worth. Let's say the doctor submitted a bill for $150, and the insurance company says that visit is worth $100, so the doctor will bill me for $100. I will also have to pay for any tests seperately as well. So if I go to the doctor and have some bloodwork done and they did 3 different tests, I will get billed for the doctors visit and get bills for each test.

    With my insurance, certain doctors visits are included and I don't have to pay anything such as I get a yearly gyno visit, I get a yearly eye doctor and because of my age group i get a physical every 5 years. However that just covers the doctor visit, not any tests that may be done. For example, I went to my gyno recently and the doctors visit is included but I had to pay for the pap test seperately, the urinanalysis, and the bloodwork that I had done. My "free" doctors visit ended up costing me over $300.

    To help pay for these costs, these type of insurance plans offer an HSA savings account. You can contribute part of your salary to it and you earn interest on what you don't use. They give you a debit card so when you go to pay your bills, thats what you would use. My employer doesn't contribute to it so I have to put in as much as I can afford a week, which for me is like $10. The monthly fee for this account is $2.50 but the amount that I have in my account doesn't earn that much interest a month so I end up losing money. I can close the account but that costs $20.

    I think these types of plans are good for really healthy people who happen to have a good amount of disposable cash. For me, I don't have have lots of cash to throw around so I really hesitate to go to the doctor when I'm sick. Fortunately for me, my sicknesses turn out to be nothing but perhaps for someone else in the same position, they wait too long to go to the doctor and whatever they have turns into something much worse. I've never been able to reach my $2000 deductible so pretty much everything is out of pocket. I get a slightly reduced rate because I have insurance but it's still more than just paying a $20 or $30 co-pay.

    I'm not sure what the answer is but if people are hesitating to go to the doctor (even with insurance) because they can't afford to pay the bills, well there's something wrong with that.

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