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Health Care: Let's Liberate the Masses

The cost of health insurance is not only keeping millions from accessing proper medical care, but it is also hobbling our large companies and strangling at birth many of the small businesses we need for job growth.
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I work for the General Electric Company. It is, at least at NBC Universal, a very nice place to work and I am very lucky to work there.

You meet lots of interesting and accomplished people, there are lights and cameras and action.

And GE is a good company, with well-established systems to hire, transfer, promote and sometimes fire the hundreds of thousands of people that make up the business.

One perk of being a GE employee is that you get special access to a GE product store where you can buy things like stoves and other GE Appliances at discounted employee rates. A nice perk, especially if you need a well-crafted stove.

But if you decide you want to buy your appliance someplace else, no problem, the GE Appliance Store is there if you want it at any time, but there is certainly no obligation to buy there. And they certainly don't pay me in expensive GE stoves, because I would much rather have actual money that I could then go and use it to buy any stove I want, maybe even a smaller, cheaper one since I live in New York City. Or if I didn't need a new stove, I could just use the money for something I did need.

The same is true for all of the non-health insurance I have. They have nothing to do with where I work, so I can change my homeowners insurance and car insurance at any time, and the insurers are forced to compete based on my preferences.

And yet that is exactly the opposite of how the Employer-based Health Care model works: they decide your choices, and if you don't like their limited selection, you end up having to forgo their entire subsidy and pay for the plan you want completely out of pocket. It would be like getting partially paid in stoves that you don't need and can't sell.

However, when you compare my predicament to the 47 million people without health insurance, I couldn't seem more whiny. The fact is that GE does provide me with excellent health insurance, so this really has nothing to do with benefiting me personally. But the cost of health insurance in this country is out of control, and it is not only keeping millions from accessing proper medical care, but it is also hobbling our large companies in the global marketplace and strangling at birth many of the small businesses we need so desperately to get job growth going.

Meanwhile, innovative health care programs like the Mayo Clinic are out of reach of most of the 174 million Americans currently on Employer-based health care, protecting the majority of insurers from competing against the Mayo Clinic's amazing advances. This in turn prevents the smarter, less-expensive large scale health care companies from growing large enough to cover the currently uninsured.

As it stands now, being forced into an Employer-based health care system encourages the exorbitant spending that is bankrupting our country.

Imagine, if you will, that you are going out to nice steakhouse tonight with every person that you work with. Now imagine that everyone in advance knows the total bill will just be split up equally at the end, no matter how much each of you orders. How many people do you think will order just a salad when they know that they will be paying for part of your double filet? Now imagine that half the bill will be paid by your company, except with the caveat that they get to pick the restaurant. Would this system ever work for a group lunch at your company? So why would we use it for something as important as health care?

So as we all watch this bill make its way with 564 Proposed Amendments on its first day, pay close attention to the employer voucher option being offered by Ron Wyden, which seeks to directly address this massive flaw. And once again, we must ask if our government really does work for the taxpayers and the well-intentioned doctors and hospitals who care for them? Or do they work for the entrenched insurers, employers that wish to stifle employee competition, employee benefit Management companies and unions that make billions or wield their power based on the current broken system and are lobbying hard to keep it that way? This will be yet another litmus test.

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