October 08, 2009

diamond in the rough: insurance vs assurance

(let the uncapitalized and flow of thought format convince you that this is just a ""thinking out loud" post rather than a heavily researched topic... although it is something I think about all the time and plan to turn into a formal proposal at some point.)

a lot of the healthcare debate rages over the issue of what "health insurance should cover."

what should it cover?
whatever the consumer is willing to pay to have it cover, of course.
the whole point of insurance is to stack the odds and cover for those emergencies -- you know, when you go to the hospital for an emergency surgery or you get in a car accident.

what the REAL issue that everyone is arguing about is health ASSURANCE.
we want to be able to have affordable care from our doctors to keep us healthy! as more and more medications hit the market (or have been gathering dust on the back shelves despite comparable proven efficacy and safety records) and more screening tests are shown to be helpful to prevent X Y and Z, we expect more from our healthcare providers.

Think about it.
Fifty years ago, people thought that smoking was not hazardous to your health -- now we know it causes irreversible lung damage that may require expensive home oxygen, frequent life threatening lung infections that require hospitalization and lung cancer that may convince people to make a last ditch effort to go for some surgery or chemotherapy.

we expect healthcare for our buck rather than someone who sits back and tells us what will happen if we dont do x y and z. (as i highly doubt my 10 second description of possible complications of smoking would EVER convince someone to quit.)

so what is the solution?

we need a lot of different fixes.

we need to keep health insurance -- it may benefit insurance companies if they are no longer the sole cash provider of ALL health services since many things are fought against tooth and nail from a financial perspective like pre-existing conditions as ways of cutting costs. (and thus better deferred to the government)

we need to maintain health assurance -- and that's where the government can step in. obviously, we have the knowledge and the means to keep our populace healthy. this starts with the simple concepts of public health. it worked with public sanitation, why not extend it to public nutrition and public exercise? those are the largest lifestyle changes that impact health to the public (and thus falls under public health domain.) this means that there would need to be a HUGE shift in public imagining of the way things work -- public gyms with trained physical therapists competing with private gyms with trainers. growing garden programs, subsidies for local produce, taxes on unhealthy snacks and cooking classes for those with hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

we need to have this health assurance on the provider level. doctors and their staff need to be assured that they can have the tools they need to provide the best care that they can. this means no hoops to jump through to approve medications or procedures (no retarded justifications for complex medical decisions to people who may only have training in insurance policy instead of medical necessity.) No unjustified denial of payment based on deadlines that are not medically relevant. this means we need an integrated system for health sharing -- a network where a patients labs, imaging, and ideally records and procedures can be accessed by all who need this information without filling out endless requisition forms.

most importantly, we need this health assurance on the patient level. they need to feel that they have the time to talk with their doctor and understand what is going on and how they can be a team member in their game of life. docs are only coaches in this, occasionally directing the plays, but the patients make the ultimate decisions and live with the consequences. Patients need to feel free to find someone that they feel they can work with instead of being locked in a room with one grouchy overworked doc who may disagree with what they want.

i dont know where we are with the healthcare reform.
but i want to be assured as well.


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