Medical insurance costs could use a healthy dose of reality - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Medical insurance costs could use a healthy dose of reality

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Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 6:21 pm | Updated: 9:37 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

“So you feel you’re the most qualified candidate for this position?”

“Absolutely. As you see by my resume, I graduated with honors from MIT.”

“Impressive. But tell me. How often do you go to the gym?”

“The gym?”

“Yeah, workout, pump iron, run on the treadmill.”

“Not as much as I’d like. But in my previous position, I won several awards for innovating processes that saved my employer millions.”

“Wonderful, but let me ask: if someone set a Twinkie on a plate next to a low-fat Snackum, which would you choose?”

“The Twinkie. Let me also state that I was in charge of a project that improved my department’s revenues by a nearly 28 percent.”

“Remarkable. Do you drink one to two glasses of alcohol a day or more than six at one sitting?”

“I enjoy a few beers now and then. But what you really should know is that I recently graduated in the top 10 percent of my MBA class at the Wharton School of Business.”

“Wonderful, but what I really want to know is this: what do you normally have for breakfast?”

“Eggs, I suppose. At Wharton, my master’s thesis examined technological processes that could improve your company’s production efficiencies by 20 percent or more.”

“When you eat breakfast, do you prefer trans-fatty margarine on your toast or butter?”

“Margarine. I don’t mean to boast, but a former employer praised me as project manager of the year.”

“Excellent. Any diabetes, heart disease or high cholesterol in your family history? According to your blood tests, you are prone to develop all of these.”

“Blood tests? You mean from the physical you made me take? Look, sir, I am regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities in my field! I have impeccable credentials. Why don’t you ask me about that?”

“Don’t you read the papers? The Wall Street Journal says that employer health-care costs are poised to rise 10 percent — that’s according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey. Because of cost-shifting, companies that pay for private insurance are covering the cost of both the uninsured and the government insured.”

“The government insured?”

“Medicare and Medicaid restrict fees. They also require extensive paperwork, which drives up costs. To provide care to Medicare and Medicaid patients, doctors and hospitals simply charge those who can pay — those with private insurance — more.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Then know this: nearly 20 percent of every dollar spent by private insurers will cover the uninsured, Medicare and Medicaid. Our health care system is costly because of excessive government intervention. And because health-care consumers aren’t spending their own money, they don’t care what things cost.”

“We don’t?”

“According to the National Coalition on Health Care, America spent $2.3 trillion on care in 2007 — a whopping 16 percent of our gross domestic product. Surely some clear-headed reforms could simplify our system, reduce costs and still cover the uninsured.”

“It can?”

“But as an employer who buys private health insurance for my employees, I can’t control much of that. But I can reduce my premiums by controlling what my employees eat, drink and do.”

“You can do that?”

“According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one employer not only required his employees to stop smoking, he demanded it of their spouses, too. He enforced his ban through random testing. Employees caught smoking get canned.”

“But what does all of this have to do with me?”

“As your employer, I have every legal right to ask you to authorize access to your medical records. You will eat a healthful diet and forsake bad habits that will add to our premiums.”

“Well, sir, are you offering me this job or not?”

“That depends. If you had to choose between an unsalted cracker and a Doritos chip, which would it be?”

Tom Purcell is a nationally syndicated columnist. Contact him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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