John M. Kunst, Jr.: Competition best for health insurance market
The writer laments that he would gladly pay a few extra hundred dollars a month in taxes “just to rid ourselves of the health insurance company control of our health and medical affairs.” The letter implies that a single payer government-run program would “bring us up to date with the rest of the civilized and industrial world.” My factual experience has been a bit different and strongly suggests that a “single payer” government system will still use insurance companies to manage the government program. Thus, uniformity in coverage and benefits will be what the government and insurance companies negotiate without the benefit of competitive offerings from various insurance companies nationwide.
In 2008, I signed up for Medicare and supplemental coverage through one of a few insurance companies permitted to offer health insurance in our state. I was amazed at the savings I could realize when I compared my annual supplemental coverage costs with what I had been paying through my law firm’s private insurance group policy. I sought out a broker to explain what the savings were attributable to. His explanation blew me away. In 2008, the federal government paid my supplemental provider $600 per month ($7,200 annually) to administer my health insurance because the government and Medicare could not do it effectively. Adding my supplemental monthly premium ($94) to the government’s monthly payment ($600), brought my annual Medicare Supplemental Insurance costs above what I was paying through the firm’s private plan.
It is naive to think that whatever affordable health care program eventually comes out of Congress will not have insurance companies running the program or that the government is capable of running such a program. What voters should insist upon is portability and open competition, nationwide, by all health insurance companies if we want to improve and expand coverage and lower health care costs for everyone. Insurance companies and health care are here to stay. Affordability occurs when these insurance companies lose their monopolies and have to compete for customers on a nationwide basis.
John M. Kunst, Jr., Fairplay
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