In many important respects, modern day health care is much like a fire that is burning more out of control with each passing year, with no end in sight. What fuels this fire to a large degree is health insurance, serving to coordinate the bridging of the gap between people’s irrepressible desire to spend on this and their financial means.
The ceiling here, the amount that we could spend on health care, or at least the conventional form of it that is covered by these policies, is very high and grows with each new discovery of how we can spend even more on these things.
As much as we spend on health care now, over 3 trillion dollars a year in the U.S. alone, around $10,000 for every person in the country on average, there is certainly already the potential to spend several times that if the resources were present.
$10,000 for each man, woman, and child in a country is simply an incredible amount and this is predicted to keep rising. It is safe to say that our spending on this is already at a critical mass which will only worsen with time unless we make some real changes, and these changes will have to be very big, not small.
What health insurance does is muster up a lot of additional resources that drives this spending. If people were left to their own resources, health care spending would become drastically slashed and we’d only see a fraction of the spending that we currently see.
People would argue that this would come with a precipitous drop in people’s health, and while there may very well be a drop, we cannot just assume that the drop would be as big as people would imagine, especially if we look to compensate with less expensive options. We may actually be able to spend a lot less and get a lot more, and at the very least, this needs to be explored sufficiently.
Health Insurance Plays a Big Role in All This
Greatly reducing the role of health insurance would drive people to seek out more cost-efficient means of managing their own health though, and we see little of this now, simply because people are not paying for this out of pocket.
This goes beyond just making the costs transparent to them, as if you cannot afford something, you will naturally gravitate toward more economical solutions. If you can’t afford to drive a Rolls Royce, you will look to buy a cheaper car, one within your budget.
More expensive and more intensive health care is not necessarily better, so this is not just a matter of having to settle for inferior or much more inferior options like many would suppose, perhaps looking upon the poorest of the third world countries such as Somalia, where only $33 per person per year is spent on health care and care is for the poorer segment of the population is close to non-existent.
We tend to hold conventional health care spending as pretty sacred though, equating it with the sacredness of life itself. While in some cases this may not be entirely reasonable from an economic standpoint, spending millions of dollars to save someone’s life for instance, people really detest placing monetary value upon a person’s life and that’s understandable.
Much of the spending that we do with health care is not of this nature at all though, and in many cases, we may be just wasting money, or worse, spending it to directly influence our health in a negative way.
While how much of our health care spending is of this sort is a matter of some controversy, there is little doubt that this is a war that we are losing even though we spend more and more on fighting it. We’re actually losing it by a far bigger measure than people realize when we look at the incidence of disease now versus a point in time where we were far less aggressive with our health care spending.
This in itself does not mean that the additional “care” is behind it or even substantially so, and it does require a very good understanding of how certain health care strategies can worsen rather than improve conditions to make sense of how this could happen. If we just suspend our judgement and simply accept whatever outcomes emerge, as the great majority of people tend to do, then this makes it very difficult to see what is ultimately wrong here.
With disease processes, we may be preoccupied by the outcome of the diseases as they manifest themselves, just like we can see the outcome of excessive health care spending driven by health insurance. We can only treat a disease by looking to remedy its causes, what is behind the problem, and in a real sense, the way we use health insurance is certainly one of the main ones.
There is very little incentive to health insurance providers to make health care more cost efficient, and there actually is an incentive to instead expand it, as the health insurance market expands alongside an expanding health care market.
If we look at all the money that health insurance companies make in the United States, where health care spending is so rampant, and imagine what would happen to their profits if we moved to a system that drastically slashed health care spending, this would not be something that these companies would want to see happen.
There is a huge amount of money made by both the providers and the insurers, more so by the providers, but insurance companies do ride their coat tails with this, getting a cut of whatever extra spending that can be squeezed out of the population with cost escalations overall.
Any Real Reform Must Come from the People
We really cannot hope for or expect reform from either conventional medical providers or health insurance companies, as they both have a serious stake in growing spending as much as possible. If the goal is to become more efficient, both in terms of what we spend and the quality of outcomes, this will need to be driven by changes in demand, from health care consumers themselves.
It would not be much of a stretch to classify conventional medicine as a type of cult, where the system just orders people to obey them and they tend to do so unquestionably. This is a perfect situation to do business in and health care companies are indeed businesses, in spite of people’s illusions that they exist to promote the well-being of the population.
It is possible to do both, to having making people better as their prime directive and also make a profit from it, and making a profit in itself is not a bad thing at all, provided that it does not interfere with what we are at least supposed to be accomplishing, in this case improving health.
This is not at all what we see with health care today, and while some may think that these folks indeed have our best interests at heart, if we look at this closer, we may end up coming to the conclusion that the real motive here is profit and affecting positive outcomes ultimately takes a back seat to this.
The rabbit hole may run very deep here, but all we really need to do in order to get a taste of this is to view the extent that conventional medicine will try to shun anything that does not correspond with their views, in spite of any amount of evidence against them.
It’s not unreasonable that they would do so actually, to protect their interests, but the problem occurs when we assume their interests and ours are one in the same. So, they will cling to bad science decades after they have been exposed as such, and they tend to simply ignore any evidence at all in fact that conflicts with their approaches.
They say it takes decades for conventional medicine to accept new ideas, although the truth is that if the ideas are incompatible with their practices and philosophy, they may never accept them. This would not matter so much if people did not follow them in the manner of the Pied Piper.
As long as people demand and demand very forcefully to exclusively receive this type of care, it will remain dominant, and we will continue to spend so much money on it, and likely more and more on it.
This is what is really behind runaway health spending, and runaway health insurance spending in turn, and the only way to really reform health insurance is to reform people’s attitudes toward health care in general.
More than anything, what we need to focus on preventing diseases a lot more, rather than just treating them when they rage enough as is the case typically with conventional medical practice, and when people do get sick, we need to focus more on trying to make them better rather than spending huge amounts on just managing the symptoms.
How This Could All Be Improved
We can look at various aspects of health insurance and come up with plenty of ideas on how to make it more efficient, with things like larger co-payments and deductibles, especially with public health insurance, or directing smaller expenditures away from insurance, but all this can only go so far.
We certainly do not want to do away with the health care system we have now, and some of it at least does serve a valuable and even essential function in our quest to preserve life, but a lot of it needs to be examined much more closely than we do generally.
The starting point here does need to be to seek out the best health outcomes we can, as well as using an evidence-based approach. This is what conventional medicine claims it does, but how well they accomplish this or what the evidence actually turns out to be is what we really need to focus on more.
We cannot just select evidence that fits our objectives, and ignore evidence which does not, and this is what we see so often with conventional medical views. The public is for the most part ignorant of what is actually going on because they have become so conditioned to just accepting what they are told by these authorities.
Any real reform with health care and health care insurance in turn will require that we take a much more open-minded view of health care than we do now, and while many people already do these days, this will have to happen on a much bigger scale than we see presently for institutions such as health insurance providers to be forced to change substantially.
When governments are providing the insurance, this all perhaps becomes even more distasteful. However, both governments and corporations listen to the people when they speak, although enough people have to in order to affect real change.
All we really need to do is to be more willing to examine how we manage health care and actually want to seek out the best solutions, although to do that we’re going to need to go beyond just looking to authorities who have a huge stake in opposing any changes that will reduce their market share, which is exactly what most people do.
There is a real place for health insurance because there will always be things that people cannot afford to pay for themselves, but ideally, we would be limiting insurance to these things only and also rewarding people for managing their health in such a way to minimize the incidence and cost of these claims, the way we do with other insurance.
Insurance companies have tremendous resources and an insatiable appetite for evidence and data normally, and if only they had an incentive to do this with health insurance and use this to play a bigger role in both prevention and treatment, that in itself could produce some pretty big changes indeed.
We’re a long way from this though although if we’re ever able to extricate ourselves from the spending madness that exists today with health care and health insurance, this all needs to start with ourselves, becoming more aware of the real issues and possibilities and alternatives and look to inspire and demand change collectively.
The human body is an amazingly resilient and adaptive mechanism, and while it does require some raw materials to function at peak capacity, and certain medicines to assist its function in the presence of medical conditions, we need to be seeking to augment its function rather than oppose it. The fact that most people don’t really understand why a more holistic approach to health care is so superior and the only real sensible approach actually is a good measure of just how far we need to go to make this more of a reality.
Health care reform and health insurance reform therefore go hand in hand, and we cannot fix the insurance side of it until we fix what it actually pays for. It is possible to fix all this but it will take some pretty big changes to do it.
This is not just a nice to have, as health care and health insurance spending are already at critical levels and is set to keep getting worse. This is a very major issue in today’s world and nothing short of drastic change is needed.
Robert really stands out in the way that he is able to clarify things through the application of simple economic principles which he also makes easy to understand.