The announcement of a large spike in health care premiums for
school and government employees is generating a lot of concern
among taxpayers, and for good reason. But the reasons for the
hikes are not so good. Insurance companies are raising our
premiums because they can't make any profits from investing the
money we pay them since Wall Street trashed the financial system.
Take a look at your savings account since 2008 and you'll see the
Insurance companies can do this because citizens don't have the
expertise to comparison-shop for doctors, hospitals, medications,
or treatments the way we might for a car or computer. We can't pay
for major care out of pocket, so we must rely on insurance, thereby
losing the final say in what to buy or how much to pay for it.
Markets work only when consumers have the power to say no if the
price isn't right. It's pretty hard for anyone to say 'no' in the
case of things like end-of-life care or brain surgery, let alone
childbirth or infections.
Because the market is not free, insurers can raise our rates
whenever they need to to guarantee their salaries and profits. All
we can do is pay... for now. But if we hold our legislators'
toes to the fire and make them follow through with real
single-payer health system, all that will change.
David Schoales, Brattleboro, Vt.