Help! Like other businesses in this country, soaring health care costs are squeezing Northern Express like a lemon.
When our insurance agent first informed us of the increased expense of our insurance premiums for next year, we were caught off-guard - again. It seems like the premiums have doubled over the last few years.
I know Northern Express finances aren‘t your problem, but if you are a small business owner or a family without health insurance, you are probably wrestling with the same dilemma. The least costly premiums for a family are now near $9,000 and single employees around $3,500 per year. Maybe GM and Microsoft can afford double digit percentage increases in health care every year, but most businesses struggle with how to provide decent benefits for their employees without going bankrupt.
The reasons given for the increases in recent years are increased costs for hospital care, new medical technology, and prescription drugs. I would add another - increased participation in unhealthy lifestyles. There is no incentive for many insured people to quit smoking, cut down junk-food consumption, or reduce the stress in day-to-day activities. If some physical symptom of unhealthy living pops up, we can expect a simple insurance-covered trip to the doctor to cure the problem. Right?
I have never favored a national health care system in the past. “Socialized medicine“ conjures up images of medical waiting rooms jammed with patients, sitting days for treatment of hangnails and slight headaches.
My tune has changed, though, because the current system is broke and getting worse. Besides, we already have government-subsidized health care in the United States. If any individual without health insurance or funds has a serious medical problem, they are rarely refused care - and rightfully so. The rest of us pay for the health care of those without financial resources through taxes or higher insurance premiums. That sounds like socialized medicine to me.
The polls show that most Americans favor some form of a national health care plan that would cover all citizens. With all of the creative minds worrying about these rising costs in fringe benefits, you would think someone could come up with a plan that would be more efficient, cover more people, be less costly, and most importantly - promote better health than the current system.
Here‘s one idea that would at least be an improvement. As a couple of politicians have suggested, why not roll back the recent income tax cuts and use the money to have a federally subsidized health care system. An important element of such a fully-covered program would reward individuals who use the system minimally - let‘s say... up to $500 medical expenses - by receiving a hefty refund from the program at year end. That way, not only would doctors have less crowded waiting rooms, Americans would have incentives to live a more healthy lifestyle - cash incentives.
The recent federal income tax cuts, passed to jump-start the economy, will provide only $100 to more than half of the taxpayer recipients with most of the $750 billion balance in cuts going to rich guys. Needless to say, Uncle Sam can take back my $100 if a new health care system could be funded that would end the strangling increases in insurance premiums.
The huge savings in costs for small businesses owners would unleash investments in inventory, equipment, and personnel that would make the boom times of the 1990‘s seem like The Great Depression. Additionally, low-income families would be relieved of the burden of health care costs that prevent them from turning their energies into being more educated, productive citizens.
What could be healthier for Americans than that?