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Out of Our Minds
Monday, October 31, 2005 8:38 AM
Stop the craziness
Anita Sharpe on Business

The time has come to return the responsibility for health care -- and health care costs -- back to consumers. Last night '60 Minutes' reported that some companies are adopting policies forbiding employees to have bad habits such as smoking; light up after hours and you're fired. With health premiums soaring -- and 5% of employees accounting for more than half of all medical costs -- businesses are trying to jettison future liabilties.

Meanwhile, a weekend piece in the New York Times extols the wisdom of medical savings accounts which continue to grow tax free until a person needs the money. The story notes that 73% of Americans spend less than $500 a year on health care.

I'd love to hear from people who disagree -- but it strikes me that medical savings accounts are no-brainers. If consumers shop for health care the same way we shop for everything else (by quality and price), chances are, prices will come down. And once we see what it costs us personally to smoke a pack a day or carry 50 extra pounds around, we might take more responsibilty for our health as well. The alternative may well be mandatory jumping jacks at 5 a.m. in the company gym.


sp - 11/10/2005 6:33:47 PM
i don' know what you mean
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 10/31/2005 3:23:12 PM
Ok, so now the Canadian perspective on this issue. In Canada, at this time, we have 'free health care,' sort of. Nobody is turned away from health care if they are sick however, there is most certainly a two tier system available and it most certainly favours those with health plans and the finances to pay for them. I know lots of street people, marginalized people and women and men who live just at or near the poverty line. They do not have the same health care as those more fortunate. In addition the government in Ontario, where I am from, has recently disallowed eye exams and dental visits as benefits for all. Poorer people get their teeth pulled because they can't afford to have them fixed, they don't get their eyes tested because they can't afford to and they don't get regular check ups if they're more than once a year because that's not covered either. Another issue is the medications needed by many people are costly and again, that cannot be funded by many people so they go broke trying to pay. We are our brother, and sister's, keepers. If we cannot offer the basics to those who only ask for the basics what are we saying about how we value one another? Joey Smallwood, a premier from Newfoundland, was the first to bring in federal health care in Canada less than 45 years ago. His daughter is now advocating for the same system to be maintained....not added to, but also not reduced. I don't know the answer in simplistic terms. One thing I do know is that people who smoke, drink too much, abuse their bodies or choose to eat poorly are costing the system a lot of money. To make them change things smacks a little of an undemocratic control. Here's a thought though. How about the insurance companies and corporations offering free programs to people to learn how to change their habits. Places like Husky Injection Moulding in Ontario and I know there are others, have a fantastic gym, a lunch room that offers healthy meals and a great day care program....Wouldn't this be a good way to start something? Living la vida fearless, in Canada, Jan
Tom Walker - 10/31/2005 12:41:30 PM
Have you ever actually *tried* shopping around for health insurance? Especially if, like me, you are in the minority that is healthy but has long term medical issues that make finding insurance a *major* difficulty? Health insurance companies today pride themselves on making 'shopping' difficult, time-consuming, and incredibly convoluted. Shopping around is a joke of an idea unless you are a person who has never been sick and can buy 'what-if' insurance for just in case. I agree with James that a national system of some kind, or at least some federal controls on insurance companies and prices needs to happen or people like me who actually need health insurance to live, will be living on the streets after medical bill bankruptcy (which by the way is the cause of almost 50% of all personal bankruptcies in the US). The US health system is completely broken and needs to be thrown away and built up from scratch. I left my last insurance company before my current one because the final rate increase put the annual premiums at over $11,000, and I'm only 36 years old. Tell me that makes any kind of sense.
James Stewart - 10/31/2005 11:19:10 AM
David's point is a good one and there is plenty of evidence to back that up.

A far better strategy to reduce the burden of health care on businesses would be a nationalized health insurance or health care system.

Nationalized health care systems are universally cheaper than the mess the US finds itself with, and also extend support to poorer people who have neither jobs with benefits nor the resources to pay for their own.
David - 10/31/2005 10:08:54 AM
One of the problems with this is that when people spend money straight out-of-pocket (or out of HSA), many tend to forgo preventive checks that can save huge money down the road. Skipping getting a mole checked out because it costs $150 this year, only to pay $10,000 for cancer treatment next year, is not good for the individual *or* the system.


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