FORTUNE magazine published an opinion piece in their March 17, 2008, issue titled Why McCain has the best health-care plan. McCain like many of his fellow Republicans believes that giving individuals more responsibility is a way to solve the healthcare crisis.
Frankly, expecting Americans will use tax incentives to find their own healthcare insurance is laughable. Already when tasked to fund their own retirement, the vast majority don't want the responsibility, are inadequately prepared and planning to work longer. This is despite planning for their retirement is in their best interest. Who wants to be forced to work longer if they don't have to? Companies are discovering that although they relinquished their responsibility of helping their employees' retirement by eliminating the pension plans for the cheaper 401k plans, workers are not better off. Many workers even fail to enroll in the 401k plans and many that do are only invested in the money market option, which won't keep up with inflation. Now many employers are stepping in, requiring mandatory 401k enrollment (workers can opt out), and defaulting the funds into a mutual fund that has better returns.
Experts who believe that the consumer will make the right choices when given the important job of finding their own health insurance, funding it, and making best use of it obviously aren't aware of the consumer experience with retirement planning. An entire industry has developed to help people plan for retirement. Will the same occur in healthcare? Who will be the healthcare advisors? Doctors? Insurance agents? A new field of advisors?
If the public approaches the responsibility of healthcare insurance the same way it does with personal retirement planning, our country is in big trouble. Unfortunately unlike postponing retirement, a person can't predict or delay when he will get ill. Relying on the public to shop for healthcare will result in many more being uninsured, others not getting preventive care, and a workforce that will be increasingly unhealthy and unable to compete in a global market. As an insider I know what to do in this new world, but what about the rest of us? Specifically, what about you?