Monday, November 3, 2008

Control the Controllables - consumer driven health care

As I tell the girls on the freshman basketball team I coach, we can only exert influence on a limited number of things - like how we play defense, boxing out for rebounds, running our offense - so it doesn't make sense to spend energy on things we can't control, especially the quality or fairness of the officiating. I call it 'controlling the controllables'.

One of the biggest financial 'controllable' issues in America today is limiting health care costs and providing access to health care for everyone. Socialized health care has been proven throughout the world to be ineffective and would be both a health care and economic disaster if it finds it's way into our country any more than it already has - and it's also the single largest reason that I will not be voting for Obama tomorrow. Not that McCain's solution is the right one, but it's clearly less wrong than expecting more government control to improve a system that's already damaged by excessive bureaucracy and lack of fiscal control.

One very interesting alternative was presented in an article by John Torinus in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It contrasted the Burger Boat company's consumer-driven plan which limited cost increases to 1.5% over the past four years (as well as a first year savings of 12% which was passed on to employees in the form of raises) to the Milwaukee Public Schools plan which is costing MPS $20,000 per year per active employee.

The article contends that the coverage under the plans is similar but that the 'GetMOR' plan at Burger Boat gives employees a $3000 debit card with which to pay deductibles and expenses (and let's them keep any excess that's not spent in a form of retirement/savings account called a VEBA) while the MPS plan has very low deductibles and co-pays. The difference being that the GetMOR participants get to make economic decisions about their health care and realize benefits if they make better choices, where the MPS participants have no incentive to use the most fiscally efficient choices.

The articles cites a study by an insurance brokerage group which claims that consumer-driven plans can save up to 25% in health care costs. While having an insurance brokerage run an insurance study is hardly impartial, if even some portion of that estimated savings were true this could be a first step in improving both the quality and the cost of our health care system.

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