The Health Care Accident

How we do health care insurance in our country is an accident of history. For many years health care payments was on a pay-as-you go system. You saw your physician (or the physician saw you in those days) there would be a fee and you paid the fee at the time of service. Depending on your situation, the payment might have been in a good (like a chicken) instead of cash.

In the 1920s, health care costs began to be higher than most people could pay. This inspired the invention of Blue Cross. Originally, Blue Cross was more of a community organization than it was an

insurance company. Affording health care became more of a problem during the Great Depression. Seeing Blue Cross’s success insurance companies then began to offer medical insurance.

Next comes the accident of history. During World War II, companies seeking a way around government wage controls began to offer medical insurance as a way to recruit employees. If benefits were also frozen, we might have never been dependent on employer paid health insurance. Of course, with employer paid health insurance, with no over all coordination of what is reasonable prices for health care and medicine, those prices began to sky rocket. It’s a lot easier to be paid by an insurance company than it is to get a chicken. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) began in the 1970s to address the inherent inefficiencies in our health care system and to emphasize prevention rather than the much more expensive fix it after it’s broke system. An other factor made this a bigger mess. Blue Cross was originally a non-profit. HMOs were originally non-profits. Now health insurance is, largely, a for-profit enterprise.

Now more and more Americans are without health care insurance. The emergency room becomes their health care provider. This is driving the cost of health care even higher. More and more Americans are filing for bankruptcy due to crushing medical bills. This is a spiral that is getting out of control and is draining the economy of our country. Health care threatens our ability to get out of the current recession.

Time Magazine offered the following solution to our health care coverage nightmare. 1) Cover everyone. This would reduce the per capita costs and drop premiums for everyone. 2) Offer free screenings for typical at risk diseases, reducing the costs of treating these diseases after the fact. 3) Pay doctors to keep us healthy, reducing the costs of after the fact treatments. 4) Hospitals should specialize instead of trying to offer every possible treatment and those who can’t compete should be allowed to fail. 5) Go paperless. This would produce fewer errors and duplicate tests, saving a ton of money.

The way we pay for health care is highly inefficient and is highly unfair. Jesus pointed a way to health and healing for anyone. Can’t we keep Jesus’ vision alive?

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