A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I need a doctor

Finding health insurance in corporate America is an awful lot like begging for scraps. If you can afford to visit a doctor on your own without insurance, then you really don't need insurance, do you? If you can't afford to visit a doctor on your own, the option plans include "pay on your own anyway, up to a certain amount" or "pay a ridiculous amount per month."

I've been suffering with what I'm pretty sure is shingles for the entire month. It's now time to bite the bullet and go see a doctor. So I went to Blue Cross/Blue Shield's website to look up affordable insurance policies. The most affordable monthly payment I could find had a $5000 deductible attached to it. Think about that for a moment: I'm looking for insurance because I can't afford the high cost of medicine in the US, but in order to benefit from insurance I have to have a lot of money on hand to begin with. My uncle, now a Vice President with Anthem (the company that owns Blue Cross/Blue Shield), once described this as giving people the freedom to make their own choices. Apparently, having a high deductible allows people the freedom to shop around for doctors they like best? He couldn't quite answer how this is supposed to work, since the deductible is doubled if you go out of network. Or how an amazingly high deductible allows people to shop around in the first place. I want insurance because a visit to the doctor costs the same as a fourth of my rent, and I'd really rather not have to choose between eating and getting urgent medical care.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield isn't the only one running this racket. This now appears to be the standard for all modern health insurance policies; my deductible with Aetna through my previous employer was $1000, and for this privilege I paid $100 a month. The days when having health insurance meant you could actually afford to get medical treatment are long gone in these golden days of "compassionate conservatism." There is no mandate for getting health insurance. Being healthy is a privilege in this nation, not a right. The free market has spoken, and the free market has decided that if I'm not rich enough to afford decent health care that it's appropriate for me to have to decide between eating and visiting a doctor.

Gods, but I miss Australia and its socialized medicine.


denis bider said...

Somehow, for-profit hospitals in India, targeted at foreign medical tourists, are able to provide procedures that cost $50,000 - $250,000 in the US, at American levels of quality, for something like 1/10th of the cost.

That's what the free market does. The reason why the U.S. healthcare system is so sick is not in any kind of "free market".

denis bider said...

Here, I fished out the Time article about it for you.

The final page of the article has data from a table comparing surgery cost, but it's laid out poorly. I've reproduced it with proper formatting here. It's an interesting comparison.