0

Rob Jenkins - 10/25/09
A modest proposal (or two) regarding health care reform

I have an idea. You know those folks in Washington who ran the "Cash for Clunkers" program? The ones who kept running out of money and changing the rules about which cars were actual clunkers and which were just American made?

Let's put those people in charge of brain surgery and cancer treatment.

Better yet, let's put them in charge of our health insurance.

After all, this is basically the same bunch that has done such a great job micromanaging the housing markets for the last 15 years - along with the bunch before them and the bunch before that. Back in the mid-90's, the Washington Brain Trust (WBT) decided that having lots of people own their own homes - especially people who had never owned homes before - would not only be a swell idea but would also look good politically. There was just one problem: in most cases, there was a reason those people had never owned a home before, such as the fact that they couldn't afford one.

But to the intrepid members of the WBT, reality is never an obstacle. They just went to the banks and said, "Look, if you'll lend money to those people anyway, we'll make sure you get it back. Plus, we'll be your friends and play with you at recess."

And so the banks and mortgage lenders decided to loan money to people who, from a financial standpoint, were not qualified. And that decision has obviously worked out pretty well, especially if you consider that the foreclosure rate is not nearly as high as it might be if, say, a troupe of trained lemurs were running the country.

Now the current iteration of the WBT wants insurers to cover pre-existing conditions - that is, to insure people who, from a medical and financial standpoint, are basically uninsurable. "Yes, we know you have stage three lung cancer and never bothered to buy insurance when you were young and healthy and smoking three packs a day, but here, let us make it up to you. Just pay 300 bucks a month, and we'll shell out $1.5 million for your treatments. If you live five more years, that means taxpayers will only have to pick up $1,482,000."

Clearly, this is just as good an idea as loaning money to people who can't pay it back and will have much the same effect on the health care industry as that idea had on the housing industry.

Here's something I bet the WBT hasn't thought of yet: what if we combine "Cash for Clunkers" with insurance reform? We could call it "Health Care for Clunkers," only in this case the "clunker" would be an elderly person. You could trade that person - who, let's be honest, probably has quite a few miles - in return for insurance coverage for yourself. Then again, maybe they have thought of that.