(this is copied from my superpixel blog, but I wanted it here too-- it counts as a Solution!)
One of the coolest bloggers around, Willy Volk, recently said in an interview that he'd blog full-time IF he could still get health insurance. Oh sure, he can get *private* insurance, but we all know how expensive that is (well I do, as I've got friends on it). So my wife and I got to talking last night about this mess... Make no mistake, it IS a mess. Why is your insurance tied to your place of employment? This seems really arbitrary considering how often we all change jobs nowadays. Also, I think it is safe to say many Americans feel shackled by jobs they've taken "just for insurance." And don't forget the upward-spiraling cost of said group coverage...
Well, I can't do much about the increasing costs. That is something that would indeed involve a modicum of reform and government oversight. Personally the idea of a sort of "Federal Trade Board" makes sense-- a body of experts who can evaluate and promote medical solutions objectively. As objectively as possible, anyway. But that isn't something I can speak to, because there are a myriad of reasons for increasing costs, some of which seem blatantly abusive, and some which are subtle in their intricacies.
What I can speak of is using technology to provide coverage for most Americans at an affordable rate, independent of their jobs. Think about that for a moment. If you could buy into affordable group health insurance, yet remain a "free agent," what would that do for our economy? I think a great outpouring of entrepreneurship would occur. We would literally set free the pent-up dreams and ambitions of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who otherwise took jobs for the insurance. It would revitalize the economy, it would make people happier, and it would spur innovation and productivity like the world has never seen. So how do we do it? Technology has the answer!
If there's one thing we've learned about the web, it's that the real power is in connecting dots that would have previously sat isolated. Take ebay, linking up oddball sci-fi toy collectors and grandmas cleaning out dusty garages for over 10 years. Before, geographic proximity was the limiting factor for collectors, but ebay has removed that obstacle. Well, how about doing this for health care? I'm in my 30's, quite healthy, and I lead a "safe" lifestyle... Why not use the power of the interwebs to put me in a similar group for healthcare? It's like LinkedIn for group health-- except you need an intermediary. So you build a website that serves as a nexus for patients seeking group coverage (and matching them up in groups), and doctors looking to serve this clientele. Doctors would finally play a part in the cost equation, as their willingness to take a deep-fried Twinkie-eating smoker aged 40 would really have a cost associated with the risk. The company handling all this would take patient info, evaluate the risk, and assign groups and match up doctors. It's so simple! Why can't there be a Progressive insurance for health?
Now what about fraud? Obviously this could be a problem. Again, technology to the rescue. Develop devices that allow you to monitor vitals and push that info to your provider via the web. An e-checkup? Sure, why not? Or build kiosks to do this. Also, once someone is caught being fraudulent (like saying they don't smoke but winding up with emphysema a week) you just cut them off. Fraud would not be tolerated, just like car insurance or at a bank. I already monitor my heart rate when I jog-- I'd be happy to pass this along to my doc.
So that's it-- affordable medical coverage for most Americans is within reach. We still need some reforms, we still need some government oversight, but just handing the keys to the Feds, if history proves anything, would be a disaster. Keep it private, but keep it quality. You only buy what you need, and insurance would finally have to make real decisions for the betterment of their customers. I think it's a win/win/win for patients, doctors and the insurance companies. Never mind the aforementioned surge in productivity (and reduction in stress) we'd see in the country as a whole.