By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Right now, the Great Democratic Plan to provide health care to Americans is to mandate health insurance as a benefit of a job. Government is requiring all employers of any size to provide health insurance to employees. Employers who donít or canít will be required to pay a 2% surcharge to the U.S. Treasury. Such a payment is a tax. Finally, the Federal Government has decided to tax as income any health care benefits received by an employee. None of the Great Health Care Plan deals with the unemployed, underemployed, and the self employed unable to make the payments. Leading the charge is Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, a big time recipient of health insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry campaign contributions. It seems to me this proposal is the wrong way to go about solving our nationís health care crisis.
Employers and businesses have no place or role to play in the nationís health care debate. It is appalling that government has turned its attention to business owners and is helping itself to profits to offset what is arguably otherwise a government duty. Like police, fire, infrastructure, education, and courts, health care is not an employer driven need. Instead it is a social need shared by every single citizen. We do not require employers to provide for the costs of education or managing a fire district. It is just as insane to demand employers solve the nationís health care issues.
It is time to correct a sixty year old bad habit that started as a fad and marketing trend and has since blossomed into what most folks consider a near constitutional right. I speak of the new age belief that an employer must provide health care benefits to its employees Ö or that employees have a right to insist, request, or even consider a health care plan as part of a compensation package.
Prior to the Second World War, there was no concept of an employer driven health care system. Because millions of healthy workers were in uniform, current demands of industry were high. Since the labor force controlled the market, employers began using Health Insurance as an added incentive to lure skilled workers to their industry. When the next generations came into the work force, they too wanted the same benefits as their forefathers and what we ended up with today is a benefit that is perceived as being on par with actual salary as the primary job consideration. Employers are to be the primary means of delivery of national health care by paying into insurance.
Wherefrom comes to any government, the legal or constitutional authority to actually command a private employer to provide a specific benefit to its workforce. Doing so is unconscionable for two reasons.
Before I address them, I would first insist that mandatory health benefits are not the same legal animal as a minimum wage. Minimum wage is also a mandatory directive to private employers for the payment of benefits. Minimum wage laws send the profits directly into the hands of the consumer and the State via taxes. Also, these minimum wage laws apply to everyone across the board.
Aside from the libertarian and capitalist defenses of private rights to do business any way you want consistent with those who would buy your product, the two reasons government mandated health insurance through employers is repugnant are (1) only the insurance companies profit, and (2) it is an unreasonable burden on the entire market; both employer and employee.
America has to wake up to the con game called ďhealth insuranceĒ. There is absolutely no reason for a financial institution to involve itself in the relationship between doctor and client. Hospitals and medical providers deserve to be paid and yes their fees are extremely high.
Removing insurance from the equation will remove a very costly middle man; whose markup triples again threefold the cost of services rendered. Insurance companies fix the market prices. Insurance decides the services that cannot and those which must be rendered. Cutting out the middle man will force the market prices to adjust, alternatives to financing will be reached such as doctors and hospitals carrying the paper (like the rest of the world), and a more sane and rational balance will be found. Donít ban insurance. Just stop seeing it as the ultimate solution to our nationís health care crisis.
Similarly, our nationís employers are not medical providers (unless that is their service). We sell widgets and the skills to build, install, and operate those widgets. The last thing our employers need is to involve themselves in the business of insurance; either in carrying it and billing for it, or in paying monstrous premiums to commercial carriers. It simply is not their business and frankly, employers lack any real skill at providing quality benefits for the prices charged.
With employees, the situation is no better. Mandatory insurance upon the employer gives the employer unbelievable access to the most private aspects of a personís life. Employers will know your blood pressure, your drug preferences, and of your venereal diseases. You will have to share personal medical information just to get the job; not because it is a condition of employment but because it is necessary to assess your impact upon the employerís risk pool.
The bottom line is that business needs to focus on widgets. WE, as a Nation need to find another solution to our nationís health crisis. Absolutely and no matter what, ďinsuranceĒ must be factored out of the equation.