Healthcare Reform Equals Economic Reform

Listen to the Story

After having my hours cut at work I decided I’d use that time to get a business up and running. Taking lemons and making lemonade is supposedly one path to living the American Dream.

Lemonade anyone?

Unfortunately I had to pause when one of my first thoughts was about paying for healthcare. This month my family will pay over $500 in medical bills, last month it was a couple hundred. Over the past three years we’ve paid several thousand dollars due to various family health issues.

When I see the bills I take a deep breathe, exhale and think, “Thank god we’ve got insurance.” Then I look at the dwindling bank accounts and try to figure out what can be shifted around to make the payments.

I count myself lucky; my employer provides a group plan. To take advantage of the plan I pay a few hundred dollars a month while my employer pays significantly more. Of course I realize that my employer’s contribution is as much a cost to me as it is to them; if they didn’t pay that portion I might get a raise, but then I would have to pay that amount myself.

If we take a moment to add it all together, the past two months have cost me about $3000 in healthcare. I wish I could say I was getting a lot for my money, but I’m not. Just ask my wife about all the doctors’ appointments I haven’t made; it’s a long list.

There’s a tired old debate that we shouldn’t pay for someone else’s healthcare, that the uninsured or underinsured are that way by choice and it is a personal responsibility issue; by socializing healthcare we are going to cause our taxes to balloon.

Currently about 16% of the US is uninsured, the rest have a hodge-podge of different options. Instead of harnessing the buying power of over 300 million people we have redundant systems upon redundant system failing to meet people’s needs.

Personally, I would argue that we are already paying an excessive tax; my combined current healthcare costs are the equivalent of about 17% of my salary. However, for some reason we still call this a “benefit”. Imagine the savings if we didn’t have all of the redundancies. Now imagine if you didn’t have to worry about paying for healthcare at all.

So let’s consider all of the people like myself who have either lost pay or lost their job all together. Once any of us become self-employed, once we chase after that American Dream, we automatically have to climb the mountain of healthcare costs or go without.

Economists and politicians are pinning the recovery of our economy on plucky entrepreneurs willing to fuel the economic engines. Instead of forcing them to choose between being healthy and helping the economy isn’t it about time we take healthcare out of the equation?

Andrew Miller writes the blog Elephants of Bicycles