Dear President Obama:
We are all aware that the greatest barrier to accessing medical insurance coverage in America today 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. As a health insurance agent, I am all too familiar with the increasing costs of medical insurance coverage and the burden it places on all Americans. So I urge you, as comprehensive health care reform is considered before Congress, please realize that the best way to expand access to health insurance coverage is to work toward containing health care costs. America needs affordable medical insurance coverage!
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 three 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 business and families. Thus, health care coverage would be just as unaffordable as it is today.
Many of the topics that need to be addressed to truly lower health care costs in the country are not ones that I have particular expertise in, however, as a health insurance agent and employee benefit specialist, I do have an extensive knowledge of health insurance markets and factors that directly drive up health insurance claims costs and consequently health insurance premiums. Congress and America must turn its attention to wellness programs and improving system inefficiencies as starting point for making health care affordable for all Americans. Nearly 50% of health care costs in America are attributed to individual behaviors such as smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity. We must establish wellness programs for Americans 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. If we can help contain the increasing costs of health care by simply helping America make healthier choices, why wouldn’t we?
We also must focus on our current health care 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 increases 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 or just superfluous, and provide incentives for doctors and medical facilities to improve system inefficiencies and eliminate costly errors through pay for performance, best practice guidelines and support for evidence‑based medicine.
In addition, health system reform and reducing costs can no longer ignore the need for balanced and sensible medical liability reform. Numerous studies indicate that doctors and other medical professionals unfortunately practice a lot of “defensive medicine” that drives up costs but adds little value to healthy outcomes just so they can steer clear of possible junk lawsuits.
It is a critical time for our health care system and we need to ensure increased access of health care to all Americans. We cannot simply open doors to health care; we must strive to make sure health care is affordable. Now is the time to work together and find ways to contain the skyrocketing health costs that burden all of America. We need to work towards containing health care costs not just expanding health care.