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Congress should not forsake the basic concept of insurance

 


Insurance at its essence is a simple concept. A large number of people get together and make payments to a central fund so that when an unfortunate event occurs to one member there are sufficient reserves to cover the cost incurred. It is all too common in our country that uncovered individuals who need healthcare get that care from institutions, private and public, and the institutions are left to cover the cost. The difference is made up by charging those with coverage, or with the ability to pay, more for their healthcare.

We have first-hand experience with this in Washington state. In 1994 the state Legislature repealed the mandate that was set to go into effect, but kept the requirement that insurance companies doing business in Washington had to cover everyone who applied for coverage. Absent a mandate, those applying for health insurance were those expecting their medical expenses to be high. This caused insurance companies to dramatically raise premiums (78 percent within a three-year period). Fewer people could afford insurance, creating even more upward pressure on rates. The repeal of the mandate resulted in so much uncertainty that between 1993 and 1998, 17 carriers stopped providing individual coverage in the state of Washington.

Individual responsibility is a conservative idea. Not having insurance and expecting private companies, or in many cases the taxpayer, to cover one’s healthcare expenses is irresponsible and a burden to your fellow citizens. It is indefensible for Congress to remove the mandate that all citizens participate in the system. Insisting that high-risk pools can be formed, with taxpayer support, to cover those forced to buy ever more costly policies while the risk pool is rapidly shrinking is disingenuous at best.

Efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have been unsuccessful so far. Rather than continue down this deadend path, Congress should consult the experts in healthcare and institute true sustainable reform. What do the other 19 western industrialized nations in the world know about providing healthcare that we do not?

William Kilby

Winthrop

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