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Opinion AHA still has a way to go

George HasaraCurrently, my wife and I are wrapped up with our “Adventures in Obamacare” as we plod our way through the sign-up process on healthcare.gov. Bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans make one feel almost Olympian. Since the “marketplace” of insurance providers for North Carolina consists solely of Blue Cross Blue Shield, it should have been named the “monopoly place” instead. If the number of typos in their literature are any indication, the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) has a way to go before it gets its act together.

At best, Obamacare is a flawed plan trying to fix a flawed system. Regulation and litigation are nowhere more evident than in the medical field. Some speak of preserving a free market in healthcare. The healthcare industry is hardly the product of a free market. What I see is a government controlled and corporate manipulated industry that has existed that way for some time now.

Also, there is nothing new about socialized medicine in this country. I don't just mean Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Health Administration, and other programs. As a child, I was covered by socialized medicine that was provided by dad's employer and subsidized by taxpayers.

Starting in the 1940s, businesses and employees were given the incentive of tax-exemption for health insurance. The company wrote off the expense and the worker received a significant increase in compensation without added taxes – taxes that would then come from other sources. By the 1960s, there was universal healthcare if you were fortunate to work for a major company.

Even though we were covered by a generous health insurance plan, in our household, only major sickness got you to the doctor. Mumps, measles, chicken pox - you had to ride out. If a cut eventually stopped bleeding, then obviously there wasn't a need to pay a visit to ER to have it stitched up. However, I had friends who went to the doctor for a sore throat or an ankle sprain. After all, what's the point of having good medical coverage, if you don't use it? Multiply that sentiment millions of times over, and you have a predicament.

At some point, health insurance took a detour as a safeguard against catastrophic medical expenses to a mechanism to pay for a medical maintenance program. There's a reason why a car warranty doesn't include things like new tires, brakes, and oil changes, but that cost-efficient principle was neglected for the longest time in the healthcare realm.

Some blame the uninsured for high medical costs, but I see insurance as a culprit as well. Shared cost is another name for a third party paying for something they didn't get. I have had medical bills dropped or reduced when it was revealed I was self-pay. That begs the question of what is the actual price of services and who pays it?

On one level, health insurance is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Yes, the restaurant will lose its shirt on some customers but will make it up on others. Right now, there's too many heavy eaters and more diners with modest appetites are desperately needed. Translation: More young healthy people are needed to pay into insurance programs to cover the older, less healthy.

I don't want health insurance per se. What I desire is the ability to have access to medical coverage without becoming destitute. Obamacare uses a precious metal metaphor. Time will determine if all that glitters is really bronze, silver, platinum or gold.





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