Thursday, August 25, 2011
Healthcare and Critical Thinking
So far I have given a few examples of behavior in each dimension to make the point that Americans in general often make poor decisions or act inappropriately, that these decisions and actions can be categorized using the five dimensions defined in my blog of May 30, and since behavior has consequences, problematic behavior reaps unwelcome results. What I am doing, in a sense, is building a reference library of examples. Yes, we are weak in these areas, and these weaknesses lead to personal and societal problems. The inability to stick to a diet, and look for easy answers instead, leads to obesity. The general weakness in discipline in America as a whole leads to what has been dubbed an obesity epidemic. The government proceeds to attack the result of the problem, which is a symptom, without recognizing that the underlying societal lack of discipline. This is the real problem, which is also the cause of the so-called Social Security or retirement crisis. That too, gets handled separately by once again attacking the symptom.
A very complex area like healthcare would take several weeks to discuss in behavioral terms, but the current approch of providing insurance for all is symptom- rather than problem-oriented.
Critical Thinking reminds us that you don’t reduce the cost of something by helping people pay for it. As the cost of higher education continued to rise, the government stepped in with a number of grants and loan programs to help people pay for it. Did the cost somehow magically turn around? No, it continued to increase at a rate greater than overall inflation, and you hear stories today about people graduating from college with increasingly higher debt loads. In the same way when the government got involved in the housing market, making “the American dream” more accessible, housing prices began to skyrocket until the inevitable crash. So the idea of providing more affordable or more accessible health insurance is totally separate from the issue of rising healthcare costs. If you have a rash of houses being lost to lightening strikes, you don’t solve the problem by making homeowner’s insurance more affordable. You put up lightening rods.
Likewise, understanding the economic process reminds us that there is no magic money tree. When insurance companies pay our doctor bills, they must get the money from somewhere. They get it from us. Either we pay higher premiums or we pay more taxes or we pay higher prices for goods and services of the companies who provide insurance for their employees. The principle holds that governments and corporations don’t really have money; they just process money. It always flows out of the pockets of the consumers or the citizens. Any scheme that gives more people insurance does so by taking money from someone else in the system, and if the core problem of increasing costs is not addressed, nothing has been fixed. It’s just a matter of a reallocating more and more money and is reduced to a moral and political question of how much to take from one class of people to support another. The core problem still exists.