Letters and Opinion

Don't blame insurance for costs

September 19, 2009

The greatest barrier to accessing health insurance coverage is cost. Skyrocketing medical care costs are the key factor in rising health insurance premiums that put the cost of health insurance coverage beyond the reach of millions of Americans.

I urge you, as comprehensive health care reform is considered before Congress, to realize that the best way to expand access to health insurance is to work toward containing health care costs. America needs health insurance coverage we can afford!

Health care costs are not expensive because of insurance; rather, insurance is expensive because of the rising cost of medical care, and by the increased demand created by unhealthy lifestyle choices. Insurance companies are not simply increasing premiums to increase their profits, but to cover the expanding cost of health care.

PricewaterhouseCoopers calculated the health insurance industry’s profit at barely 3 cents per dollar. New government programs and mandates, albeit designed to help Americans gain access to health care coverage, would significantly raise health care costs and spending for the federal government as well as for millions of American businesses and families.

Thus, health care coverage would be just as unaffordable as it is today.

America must turn its attention to wellness programs and improving system inefficiencies as a starting point for making health care affordable. Nearly 50 percent of health care costs in America are attributed to individual behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity. We must establish wellness programs that work to help us cut our unhealthy lifestyle choices. Providing incentives to strive to eat more nutritiously and be more active and healthy will result in fewer doctor visits and medical procedures.

We also must focus on our current system’s tendency to reward quantity—not quality—of care. Duplication of procedures and overuse of high-end procedures in situations where they add little value just further increase costs. We need to work on increasing communications between doctors through electronic medical record technology, establish comparative effectiveness research that helps determine when more expensive treatments are needed, and provide incentives for doctors and medical facilities to improve system inefficiencies and eliminate costly errors.

Health system reform and reducing costs can no longer ignore the need for balanced and sensible medical-liability reform.

We cannot simply open doors to health care; we must strive to make sure health care is affordable. We need to work toward containing health care costs, not just expanding health care.

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Susan Rider
Employee benefits account manager
Gregory & Appel Insurance

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