Monday, March 24, 2008

Healthcare: Part II - More Insurance Reforms

About a year and a half ago, I blogged on healthcare or, more specifically, insurance. Looking back, I still agree with my main ideas but there's more. As I have learned more about the insurance industry and government regulation of it, I've learned more about some of the limitations that could be fixed. So here are some more ideas on fixing insurance in America:

1) Extend insurance deductions to all of the insured. Right now, if you get insurance from your employer, your premiums are taken out pre-tax. However, if you're buying your own insurance, you are taxed on the money you spent. Yes there are tax deductions for insurance, but I don't think it's the same (I actually hope I'm wrong here but I assume I'm not). Therefore, ALL insurance premiums should be untaxed, not just ones through your employer.

2) Eliminate employer contracted insurance policies. Insurance isn't a free market. I don't get to choose my insurer. I have the choice of the one insurer my employer uses and that's it. I think a centralized insurance agency for employers should be established that makes a central point that all employers could go to for all insurers in the state. That way an employee could pick whatever insurance coverage fits their needs and all the employer needs is an insurer code and a plan code. This makes it easy for employers to offer all insurers to employees and makes it easy for employees to choose the insurance plan that will meet their needs. It would also make the insurance companies have to compete against each other for customers. No more wining and dining HR reps, they have to appeal directly to the people they want to insure.

3) Standardize billing codes. Right now, each insurer has its own billing codes for doctors' offices. The office staff needs to know that a physical, for example, is AA127 for insurer A and 45B723 for insurer B and 0357128876 for insurer C, etc. This creates conditions that make it really easy to make billing errors that can cost you hundreds of dollars or more and hours of you time trying to fix the issue. If all of the codes were the same, the office staff wouldn't have to worry about looking it up every time they billed. It would save them work which would result in fewer errors and possibly even lower insurance premiums (assuming it saved enough work that doctors' offices wouldn't need as much staff).

Although I feel that the market for insurance should be as free as possible, there are a few places where standards should be enforced. As long at the standards/regulations are well thought out and beneficial, I think that they're completely appropriate. Let's just make sure we're helping, not hurting.

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