Stop Wrangling about Insurance

The healthcare debate should be about the ridiculous costs

Christian Newman —

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a medical doctor or a public health expert or an insurance industry person. I am also not a politician (nor do I ever want to be one). This post is also not a partisan one — the blame lies with both parties and all politicians. Whether you support current healthcare policy policy, the proposed bill or neither, this is still relevant. I write this post as a concerned citizen who is watching the healthcare debates and wondering — what the hell is going on?????!!!!!!!!!

To be clear, my position is that I strongly advocate that everyone in the U.S. deserves access to healthcare. Kids should have access to immunizations and women should have access to pre-natal care and well-woman visits. And everyone should have access to medical care to deal with physical and mental illnesses and chronic conditions. We live in a first-world country — one of the richest countries in the world. We should be able to provide that basic human right to everyone who lives here.

The dam is bursting and we’re worried about boats

But notice, I don’t say that everyone needs insurance. As I watch the debates and the political maneuvering and the rhetoric, I get frustrated. The current debate about healthcare is focused on insurance issues — insurance coverage, cost, requirements, etc. Insurance is not the problem.

It is as if the dam is leaking and getting ready to burst and flood our village. Instead of fixing the dam, our politicians are arguing about what kind of boat to buy in order to survive the flood.

We are solving the wrong problem. We should not be focusing on buying a boat — we should focus on fixing the dam. In this case, the healthcare problem is not fundamentally about insurance — our healthcare problem is about the cost of medical care in the US.

It is time to re-frame the healthcare debate — let’s talk about costs, before we talk about insurance.

Root cause versus presenting problem

As a leadership coach and trainer, I teach business leaders how to effectively solve problems and apply critical thinking to decision making. One of the fundamental principles of problem solving is to make sure that you are focused on solving the root cause of the problem — not the presenting problem or symptom. In this case, the presenting problem is health insurance, because the US has created a system in which average people cannot afford basic healthcare without insurance.

The root cause is that healthcare is ridiculously and unnecessarily expensive — the costs have ballooned because the system allowed them to. Hospitals and doctors increased costs, because insurance companies would pay for it. Pharmaceutical companies jacked up prices for the same reason.

This is a scam. To understand the scam, you only need to compare the cost of healthcare in the US to the cost of the exact same healthcare (medicines, operations, etc.) in other countries.

Understand the scam: Proof of ridiculous healthcare costs

Investopedia provides a good summary of the International Federation of Health Plan Reports 2015 Comparative Price Report that shows some of these price discrepancies. Aaron Hankin cites the Comparative Price Report in his article “US Healthcare Costs Compared to Other Countries” in July 2016. The data shows that U.S. prices are significantly higher than anywhere else in the world — and the high costs are not due to any clinical necessity. For example, For example, the average cost in the U.S. for an MRI scan is $1,119 (and can range up to $3,031), compared to $811 in New Zealand, $215 in Australia and $181 in Spain. The report shows similar results for drugs. One cancer drug costs from $3930-$8831 in the US, but the next highest cost is in Switzerland and it only costs $1752. Prices should not range $5000 across treatment centers in the U.S., and prices should certainly not be $7000 higher than another first world country. These costs are ridiculous and unwarranted. The statistics show that the U.S. healthcare system is being manipulated and needs to be investigated.

If we can reduce the cost of healthcare to reasonable levels, insurance costs should come down for everyone. Lower costs would enable more people to afford insurance. Or perhaps some people might be able to afford basic care by paying for it directly and only need basic insurance for catastrophic events.

The root cause of the healthcare problem is about the cost of medical care — insurance coverage is only a symptom. Let’s tackle the root cause — fix the dam, so to speak — instead of incessantly wrangling about the symptom.

I’d like to say that I have a solution for the cost issue. I don’t. But I gotta believe that all of the smart and well-meaning leaders in the U.S. could solve it — if they focus on the real problem and stop solving the symptom.

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