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Flu Shots and Tooth Maintenance (Posted 9/3/2009)

Posted in Health Insurance

Yesterday morning, I went to the CVS Minute Clinic to get a flu shot (not H1N1, just regular flu). It’s pretty convenient so you might want to give it a try if they are in your area. Records for anything you have done there are stored on-line, and you have free access to your account. I got the shot and the guy gave me the bill showing a charge of $30 fully paid by Medicare. I commented that I thought it’s pretty silly to send tax money to Washington so they can take a cut and send some of it back to pay for my flu shot after some paperwork and computer files are generated and that it would make a lot more sense for me to just pay the $30 or maybe less if we took out all the extra cost. The paperwork probably took 15 minutes of his time. He didn’t agree with me, arguing that it is important that everybody get flu shots and that most people won’t get the shot if they have to pay for it. Have we really reached that sorry state of affairs?

Well, anyway, I left CVS and went to my dentist’s office for a regular cleaning and checkup. After seeing the hygienist and dentist I went to the checkout desk. I’ve been going to the same dentist for years and used to have some company-paid dental “insurance.” All it really did was pay about half the bill up to some annual maximum and had a lifetime maximum as well. I told the clerk I have given up the insurance since going on Medicare and she said that was the smart thing to do and that the charge would be $110. I paid the bill but couldn’t help wondering if I am a fool for getting my teeth checked when I have to pay for the service? Why isn’t this covered by Medicare???? Just kidding of course.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly favor insurance to fully cover significant and unexpected health care expenses, but “insurance” to cover routine and minor expenditures that occur on a regular basis wastes time and money, invades privacy, undermines any sense of personal responsibility for one’s health, and, if the guy who gave me the shot is correct, is an apparently well-deserved insult to the citizenry of this great country. I hope he is wrong.

Here’s a universal health care insurance plan I can support:

  1. We should all be required to have major medical insurance.
  2. Nobody should be eliminated for pre-existing conditions or serious illnesses or any other reason except maybe for being in prison or in the military in which cases government should be responsible for health care expenses incurred.
  3. Categories of insured must be large enough that there is a reasonable upper limit on premiums. We can’t put all the people with serious heart disease in one group and charge them $100,000 per year for insurance. However, there should a category with lower premiums for young people who normally have lower incomes and less medical expense. Such persons should not be forced into a welfare situation to be insured. They might get used to it. With the current system, 2.9% of their income already goes just to support existing Medicare.
  4. Lower premiums for those who freely choose to provide proof that they are getting regular checkups, maintaining reasonable weight, avoiding motorcycles and cigarettes, etc. Even your automobile warranty is in jeopardy if you don’t get the oil changed on a regular basis or if you use it to pull a bass boat that weighs too much.
  5. For the impoverished, insurance and routine preventive care should be funded by tax revenues the same as we fund food and housing and child care for people caught in that situation. I think it is unfortunate, disrespectful of the poor, and tends to perpetuate their situation and that of their children, but I don’t see any reasonable near-term alternative given the situation we are in.
  6. And there is a significant role for government in this whole scheme: Careful and enlightened regulation of the insurance companies. Perhaps former insurance company executives can become regulators and former Health and Human Services employees can become insurance company executives.

Anyway, whatever your belief about health care, get your flu shot and get your teeth cleaned and checked even if you have to pay for it.

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