March 26, 2008

Today’s Spokesman-Review is a perfect case study of why employers should NOT be responsible for buying health insurance for employees. The employee (let’s call him John Doe) is very ill with hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. He has a 10 year old son, a loving wife, and a meaningful career as a drug and alcohol counselor. He changes lives every day. John has just risen to the top of the list for a lifesaving liver transplant. John’s employer just renegotiated the company health insurance plan. Since they changed carriers to get the best plan at the best price, there is now a 6 month waiting period for a transplant to be covered. John can’t wait 6 months. John will die.

If John and his family were in charge of purchasing their own insurance, knowing their own needs, this would not happen.

We need a competitive individual insurance market. We need to get people out of the habit of giving control over their health insurance coverage to their employer. Employers can’t ask employees about their health care needs. Employers buying health insurance without knowing their employees health needs makes about as much sense as if the boss bought your car for you without asking how many kids you have to carry, does your driveway require 4WD in the winter, or can you drive a stick shift.

Employers purchase health care for employees because of wage controls initiated by FDR during World War II. Employers had to compete for a limited labor pool in some way, and started offering health insurance. It doesn’t have to be this way, we can change. The tradition is barely 65 years old. It’s time to retire the old tradition and let us be in charge of our own health care and health insurance. First step – challenge the Insurance Commissioner to do his job right and let us have access to a competitive market!