Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Health Care Reform: What is Insurance Anyway?

I've taken a couple weeks off from posting about health care reform, but this week I'm preaching on it, so it's very much on my mind. Of course, sermon writing and blog writing are two very different things, so I'm writing this in hopes that it will get some of the stuff I'm feeling out of the way and I can get down to writing a real sermon tomorrow. That will be focusing on the moral issues of health care reform--our moral obligation as a society in how we deal with suffering, for example.

So today, you get how I really feel about insurance. I got in an argument with a friend recently about what the purpose of insurance is/should be. I think maybe she was arguing what it is, and I was arguing what it should be.

Essentially, what I believe insurance should be is it should be a capitalist system wherein we essentially socialize a system--we spread costs that would be unbearable for any individual person across a whole group. We collect insurance premiums in order to pay for those costs. Then, when the unbearable cost strikes you, you use your insurance.

What insurance is, in our country, is a company that works as best as it can to collect your money and give you nothing in return. This is true for every type of insurance, but particularly true for health care, and particularly egregious, since this impacts not just wealth but life itself.

The first problem with all insurance is that if you use it, your rates go up.

So, take for example automobile insurance. Anyone reading this ever decide not to report a legitimate claim for a small item because it might affect your rate? The idea that actually needing your insurance then moves your costs upwards, for any kind of insurance, is a negation of what insurance should really be about, in my definition of insurance.

The second problem with all insurance is that if you've needed it in the past, they will either deny you insurance or charge really high rates.

The third problem with insurance is that if you look like you're likely to need it, your rates will go up.

Back to automobile insurance, this means that if you have a long commute, a car that's too old or too new or too pricey, or if you are under a certain age or over a certain age, or if your car is red, or if you have any number of variables that make you more risky, you will pay more.

It's bad enough when it's your car insurance, or your housing insurance, or your life insurance, but when it's your health insurance, it takes a major toll.

The fourth problem with insurance is that the insurance company will try and limit what they could possibly have to cover as much as possible.

So, if it's housing insurance, this means if you're in an area that floods, they will not cover floods. If you are in an area that is high crime, it will not cover break-ins. As much as possible, they want to avoid covering anything that could be considered "an act of God," or anything that could be considered your own fault. What does that leave? As far as the insurance companies are concerned, hopefully nothing.

The fifth problem with insurance is that there's often not enough competition.

So for health insurance, for example, only one company in Michigan was required to provide me with health insurance--Blue Cross Blue Shield. And therefore they had no competition for my money, and I had to take whatever terms and costs they offered.

Calling this a health care crisis in our country isn't really accurate--it's a health insurance crisis. Our health insurance system no longer does what we need it to do. It's broken. It always was broken, because it was the wrong answer to the problem, but the cracks in it have gotten wider.

The reason why it is so broken? Greed. I firmly believe that the bottom line in health care insurance is a financial bottom line--how can we make the most money? What we need is a moral and ethical and compassionate bottom line--how can we help people the most?

Even calling this a health insurance crisis isn't accurate enough, perhaps. It's a compassion crisis.

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