Yesterday’s Washington Post had this article about how more and more businesses are saving money on health costs by switching from traditional low deductible healthcare plans with high premiums to new “consumer-directed plans” with low premium plans and high deductibles. This saves the businesses money by shifting the financial burden onto their employees.
Unlike traditional healthcare plans, these plans require the consumer to pay large deductibles, sometimes as high as $2,000 to $4,000 for a family instead of the traditional $220 deductible, while the premium, which is paid by the company, is considerably lower than the premiums of traditional health plans, including even HMOs.
The new health plans are working; they’re saving companies lots of money. But the main reason they seem to work, according to this story, is because the high price of the deductible discourages people from going for routine treatment and even preventive care. And that’s exactly what these plans are designed to do.
Indeed, the Bush administration and its business supporters have lauded these plans precisely because they shift the burden of the cost onto the consumer and so encourage people to “shop around” for the best, most efficient and cost effective health care. They also encourage people to be more frugal – meaning get less care.
The problem is that’s often a penny wise and pound-foolish solution that leads to health complications and higher medical costs down the road. For example, by not seeking routine care for a cold or flu, a patient with asthma could end up with life threatening pneumonia instead. That could mean a costlier hospital stay with longer and more expensive treatment and serious physical complications for the patient that can’t be measured in just dollars and cents. After all, how can you put monetary value on one’s life and health if it’s your loved one?
And, let me tell you, most of the dazzling advances and life-saving techniques that have helped more people to become cancer survivors boil down to early detection. We don’t have a cure for cancer. Those whose cancer is in advanced stages often still die of their disease. It’s because of better diagnostic tests and public health campaigns, which have made Americans aware of the need to get regular mammograms, ultra sounds, and other routine screening tests, that we’ve been able to save lives.
But with high deductibles, how many mothers and fathers will go without those tests and routine checkups so they can have the money for their children’s healthcare? How many older people on fixed incomes will forego necessary testing and routine care?
Now, today’s Washington Post has an article that Bush has been talking about reviving his dead on arrival Social Security reform.
With the erosion of secure pensions and health benefits, a strapped middle class may lose the last of its retirement security at a time when it’s being pushed from all directions and economic insecurity is epidemic.
In fact, that’s why the so-called good economy is not benefiting Republicans. Although people tell pollsters that this is a strong, healthy economy, they also say they are not personally benefiting from it. They are very aware that how good the economy actually is depends on which side of the boardroom you sit on.
Meanwhile, Republicans in tight races are running away in droves from Bush’s happy talk about reviving Social Security reform. But make no mistake about it. Bush is stubborn. He doesn’t like defeat. He’s a spoiled preppy at heart and he sulks when he doesn’t get his way. And then he comes back, and back until he wears you down. If the Republicans keep Congress, he’ll make one last putsch to get his Social Security reform. He and his new Treasury secretary from Goldman Sachs want one final gift to give to their friends in the boardrooms and on Wall Street.
And if Republicans aren’t defeated this time, they’ll know they can do anything. Hide stock options, launder funds, take bribes from lobbyists, hit on teenagers, send sexually explicit messages to pages, and gut Social Security and finally drive their stake through the heart of the middle class.