Keeping the past in mind

Private health insurance plays a significant role in some countries, both rich and poor, and a nonexistent one in others. Many developing countries, with no discrimination to a specific region in the world, have no private health insurance infrastructure in place, and thus, their people struggle with financing medical care that is not directly provided for by the public sector. Medical care becomes something that is overwhelmingly dreaded and avoided at all costs, which delays timely and essential care. Moreover, there becomes a growing disparity between these countries and those with advanced medical technology and provision. The United States is the oft-cited example of a country that is heavily reliant on private health insurance to finance health expenditures. Whether through employment-based insurance plans or other private insurers, the United States’ private market gives her people the option to voluntarily subscribe to a health insurance system plan that is most suitable to their health needs. The liberty associated with this familiar system does not come without a cost, however, as thousands of dollars are spent yearly per person on private health insurance. Many people in the world do not even come close to making this much.

Despite the exorbitant premiums of health insurance plans in this country and much of the middle class’ struggle in financing health care, it seems unlikely the costs will be lowered to a reasonable number anytime soon. In fact, it is possible that huge increases will be seen. The Anthem Blue Cross of California recently announced a 39 percent increase in the cost of its premiums. I’m sure this news brought a cloud over an otherwise sunny day at The Golden State. Private health insurance is a for-profit industry, which more or less means “how to make the most money”. In other words, a company that is out to make money will do everything in its power to do just that. Our system became the most expensive, but not the necessarily the best, through the reliance on the private sector, and now it’s doing its best to lower costs and reach out to those who can’t afford it by completely reforming the system (and making sure those in Congress have something to do). The government is now effectively trying to make the provision of health a comprehensively public system but whether that’s possible is yet to be seen. Now that developing countries have a model for a system that will eventually fail by virtue of its cost, and it hardly makes sense for them to make the same mistake.

It’s unreasonable to forego mention of the benefits of a health care system with some basis in the private sector. After all, health care resources are severely limited in developing countries, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the comprehensiveness of publicly funded health care. Thus, if health care is not available through public means, people will be forced to pay out of pocket. This is not feasible in many circumstances but neither are the premiums they will be forced to pay in a private plan, even if they are employed and especially if costs escalate at the rate that they have in the United States. In addition, a private market will require strict government regulation to avoid excessive profiteering without the well-being of its country in mind. This is the only way the growth of private health insurance can function. The government and the industry must ensure that private health insurance is a private industry for the public good. It’s a long road for developing countries, one in which I can glimpse a speckle of hope, but they must not let the mistakes of our past lead them astray.

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One response to “Keeping the past in mind

  1. If private insurers were not for profit, what would they be for? They continue to make exorbitant profits from rising insurance premiums because we are willing to pay for them. We are willing to pay exorbitant prices because we want security. We want security in case of any medical disaster so we would not have to pay large out of pocket expenses. So in the end, we believe it is all worth it. Those who do not believe it is worth it, don’t get it and should be prepared for the consequences. That is just how the market works.

    I’m not saying it is right for insurance companies to earn windfall profits(I’m not really sure how much they make), but can we really blame them when we are the ones feeding them? If we were really fed up with it, we collectively as American citizens should be trying harder to create a public system which is the only way insurance can be non-profit. That way high-risk people can have their risk be pooled into the general population.

    Your example of Anthem Blue Cross of California raising 39% of its premiums might be taken out of context. There might be other factors fueling its increase such as increased costs for doctors, medical tests, inflation, and etc. Those in turn have their own determinants, in the case of doctors maybe their malpractice insurance premiums significantly increased or for medical exams the price of plastics have increased with oil prices. We really can’t blame them for trying to make money. We would do the same thing if we owned any business even something as different like a restaurant.

    All in all, we sometimes forget maybe we are the problem. When do we draw the line? Is now the time?

    Relating this to developing countries, their line is drawn probably a lot quicker than ours simply because they do not have as much wealth. If private insurers in developing countries raise their premiums too high, people would probably just go back to paying out of pocket. In that case, private insurers might lose all their clients.

    Considering the current state of the health system in developing countries, private insurance would be beneficial for developing a model and providing information for a later public option. Also it is at least better than the current state where a majority of expenses are payed out of pocket. People would get the security, or a sense of security, that most of us enjoy here.

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