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Lessons on government healthcare and insurance

June 25, 2009

Way back in 2007, the Washington Post did an excellent expose on conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They found dilapidated buildings, overcrowding, long lines for care, and bureaucratic mismanagement. In fact, the scandal was not about the doctors. Walter Reed still provides world-class medical help. The problem was in follow-up care, physical therapy, and the longer-term patient services handled by the administrative folks. This quote captures the problem nicely:

Vera Heron spent 15 frustrating months living on post to help care for her son. “It just absolutely took forever to get anything done,” Heron said. “They do the paperwork, they lose the paperwork. Then they have to redo the paperwork. You are talking about guys and girls whose lives are disrupted for the rest of their lives, and they don’t put any priority on it.”

That, folks, is what government services are all about.  Many unionized government workers are more concerned about cashing a check than providing good customer service. And the ones that do care are overworked. Professionals in government systems are in shorter supply, often because they’re paid less. Oddly, WaPo doesn’t seem to bring up the state of EXISTING government medical and insurance systems when they talk about the latest round of Healthcare reform. Do Medicare and Medicaid provide higher-quality service than private plans? Definitely not. And the budget overruns in those systems is a major contribution to our massive debt.

A closer look at another government insurance system puts the lie to the notion that the addition of a government plan creates more competition. In Florida, the state crafted it’s own homeowner’s insurance plan. It was intended to be a lower-cost option for peope who couldn’t afford the “excessive” costs of public insurance companies.  The state-run insurance is priced lower than it’s public competition. As a result, State Farm, the largest home insurer in Florida, has stopped writing new policies. As a bonus, the state insurance fund is insufficient to cover the claims that Florida will see after the next hurricane hits.

I challenge anyone to come up with any state-run or federal example of a health care or insurance system that provides good service, cheaper, and at less risk to the taxpayer than a private company.

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