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I can’t take it anymore; I can’t keep my opinions to myself. I have to write my representatives, and my senators, and other representatives I think might listen, and post to my blog. Perhaps my one reader will see it. Unfortunately, I should be working on a contract proposal right now, so I’ll have to make this quick.

A better reasoned post making the same argument is available at the Economix blog at NYTimes.com. I want to note that I wrote this letter to my congressional representatives before finding that blog post.

I’m a young professional living in Pleasant Grove, Utah. I have been self employed for the past year. It was a challenge to get coverage for my wife and three kids. We currently have an HSA and are pretty happy with it. However, a fourth baby is due in February and will cost us over $7000 for delivery. My mother-in-law lives with us and has been uninsured for the past year.

I have watched the health care debate with much interest. As a missionary in Europe, I saw how the government can be part of a comprehensive solution to health care. The American system is fundamentally broken, and I hope that we can find a solution that provides the type of safety-net that is standard in a first world country.

I am disappointed that no one appears to be discussing a major problem with the American system. Every solution appears to suggests that more businesses should be encouraged to provide health benefits to their employees.

Why should employers be in the health-care business?

I give here a number of reasons why employers should not be providing health benefits, and why individuals need better direct access to insurance. I then suggest two solutions that should be a part of a comprehensive reform.

As an employee, I found that losing my health benefits was one of the big sticks used to discourage me looking for better work. Giving up company provided health insurance was the biggest concern with starting my own business. A limited range of health benefits is a big reason why small companies have a hard time competing for top talent.

A government mandate to have health insurance, without better options to receive individual coverage, would only drive more people to large companies and put small companies out of business.

My experience is that few, if any, employers want to be dealing with their employees’ health insurance. Every employee has different needs, yet the company has to provide a single set of plans for all of them. Most individuals would be better served by having a direct relationship with their health insurer, just like house, car, and life insurance.

Statics show that people are more likely to need health care after losing a job—when our health system removes their insurance.

One of the reason health care costs are so difficult to control is because the consumer is removed from the process of payment by three levels: the provider, the insurer, and the employer. Since I took control of my own insurance, I am much more aware of how much we spend and whether the care we receive is really the care we need. My insurer can work with me directly to provide lower rates for a healthy lifestyle and preventative care.

We need to make it easier for individuals to get their own health insurance. We need to make it easier for individuals to manage their own health care without their employer’s interference. We need to free employers from the burden of providing health insurance to their staff.

Widening the HSA program is a good way to address these problems.

A government funded catastrophic insurance plan open to individual enrollment can also be a part of the solution.

I would enjoy discussing this issue with you or your staff.

Richard Esplin

This study suggests that providing health coverage hurts industry as a whole.

We need to make it easier for individuals to get their own health insurance. We need to make it easier for individuals to manage their own health care without their employer’s interference. We need to free employers from the burden of providing health insurance to their staff.

Widening the HSA program is a good way to address these problems.

A government funded catastrophic insurance plan open to individual enrollment can also be a part of the solution.

Update 2009-09-04: It’s been two full weeks, and I haven’t had any response. I guess I haven’t donated enough money to anyone’s PAC.

Update 2009-09-05: I got a letter from Orrin Hatch today. It is no secret that I see Senator Hatch as a major obstacle to progress in our state and in the United States Senate. He always seems to take the side of corporate interests, especially regarding intellectual property. I never miss an opportunity to vote against him.

That said, I find it interesting that so far he is the only representative to respond to my letters. Last time I sent him an email, I got an impersonal response that had nothing to do with the ideas I presented. I’m rather impressed that this time I got a letter on official letter-head signed with a real pen (not a stamped or printed signature). He even references my major concern in a way that shows a passing familiarity with my letter, though it is clear that he didn’t take the time to address the substance.

In the interest of fairness, here is the text of his letter:

Dear Mr. Esplin:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate it very much. Health care reform is one of the most important challenges facing our nation and I am working hard to ensure access to quality and affordable care for the families in Utah.

I appreciate your suggestions and learning your views. I agree that we need to make it easier for individuals to manage their health care. There are several areas of consensus that can form the basis for a sustainable, fiscally responsible and bipartisan reform. I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come up with a responsible and sustainable proposal based on these shared principles. These include:

  • Reforming the health insurance market for every American by making sure that no American is denied coverage simply based on a pre-existing condidion.
  • Protecting coverage for the nearly 85 percent of Americans who already have coverage they like by making it more affordable — this means reducing costs by rewarding quality and coordinated care, giving families more information on the cost and choices of their coverage and treatment options, discouraging frivolous lawsuits, and promoting prevention and wellness measures.
  • Giving states flexibility to design unique approaches to reduce the uninsured. As we move forward, it is important to recognize that every state has its own unique mix of demographics and each state has developed its own institutions to address its challenges.
  • Empowering small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs — the job-creating engines and lifeblood of our economy — to buy affordable coverage by allowing them to band together and buy insurance just like large corporations.

Unfortunately, the path some are taking in Washington right now is to simple spend another trillion dollars of taxpayer money to further expand the role of federal government.

As Congress works to address the vital issue of health care reform in the 111th Congress, I believe that it is important that we address this national challenge in a bipartisan and fiscally responsible manner. Ensuring access to quality, affordable and portable care is not a Republican or Democrat issue — it is an American issue. I will continue to work with my colleagues to find real solutions based on areas of consensus that we can achieve this year.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senator

The summary is that he thinks businesses should keep providing health insurance, and the federal government should stay out of it. His plan is to let states struggle along much as they have for the past fifty years. He also implies that there should be no mandate to carry health insurance, but he doesn’t address how insurers can stay in business without denying risky individuals if the healthy can opt-out. As usual, his policies do more to protect the corporate status-quo than they do to help my family, my business, or the American industries who can’t compete against the modern health care models used around the world.

Conclusion: Orrin Hatch is a dinosaur, and I still fail to understand why my Utah neighbors vote for him.

The problem of affordable health care has been solved by every other modern democracy. Why can’t we learn from them?

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Comments

  1. Francisco Guerrero

    Francisco Guerrero on #

    It is indeed interesting how Mr. Orrin Hatch is the only U.S. Senator who had answered your concern.
    I'd hope another partie's senator would answer unless (as you said) they all want to protect the corporate status-quo.

    I really congratulate you because I don't think many people struggles with the US Senate regarding these matters.
    Why? because most of them are also under the wings of a big firm who takes care of their health insurance.

    Same thing happens in Mexico. Nevertheless, President Calderón has instituted the "Seguro Popular" which tends to take care of health problems of scarce resources people. A good intention, but in the real world, the offered service is far from being good.

    It seems that we all need to keep struggling.

    Best regards

  2. Richard

    Richard on #

    I have since also received letters from Jason Chaffetz and Bob Bennett.

    I cannot find the letter from Mr. Chaffetz, but I remember it being a form
    letter that did not actually address the issues I had raised. It pretty much
    restated the Republican party line of "most Americans are happy, so the
    government should leave us alone". I think the premise to that argument is based
    on faulty data.

    I was impressed with the letter from Bob Bennett. Though it politely disagreed
    with my assertion that a public option could be a good thing, it added this
    additional information:

    > I have worked with Senator Ron Wyden to introduce S.391, the Healthy Americans
    > Act. Under our bill, Americans, regardless of employer, would select a portable,
    > private health insurance policy that best meets their medical needs. Provisions
    > in our bill would prohibit insurance companies from denying an individual health
    > insurance, regardless of his or her medical history. Furthermore, the bill
    > permits states to allow health insurance issuers to provide premium discounts
    > and other incentives . . . based on participation in wellness . . . programs.

    I think that's a good start. I think it needs a couple additional items:

    * Income based assistance in obtaining a private sector plan,
    * Plan competition across state boundaries.

    Too bad the current bill doesn't look much like this plan. I'm curious to see
    how it will work out.

    Thank you for your comment.

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