Monday, February 19, 2007

Caring about health care

Last week I started to delve into how I can provide health care benefits to Julep employees, and I am overwhelmed.

I knew the health care system was broken in this country, but having had the good fortune of working for large companies with good benefits, I have to admit that I have been sheltered from the extent of the damage.

I start with the basic premise that, in a country with our level of wealth, people who work hard should be able to see a doctor when they, or their children, are sick. Growing up in Canada, we were always able to see a doctor when we needed to, even though my parents worked hourly jobs and then ran a small business. We never had to choose between groceries and health care.

In a nutshell, it seems to me that we as a nation must be more vested in maintaining the illusion that we’re not paying for other people’s health care than in actually lowering health care costs. We are paying a premium to be able to pretend that problems don’t exist.

Because I know that the $275 per person per month I was quoted (to provide 80% coverage with a $200 deductible) includes the hidden cost of providing expensive emergency room health care for the 42.6 million Americans (10 million of whom are children) who do not have other alternatives.

As a business owner, I think I would feel better if this was broken out for me. How much of my premium actually goes to serving my employees? How much of it goes to support the maze of crazy administration? How much would it be to pay for a more open, rational system that covered more people?

I want to do my share. But I also want to understand what that share is, how it’s being allocated, and what it’s being used for.