I am writing in response to your request for “fishy” information on healthcare. By way of introduction I should reveal a bit about my background and relationship to this issue.
I am old enough (85) to remember what life was like prior to the advent of widely available health insurance. I can still recall the difficulty my parents had paying for my appendectomy in 1934 and my brother’s tonsillectomy in 1935. My father worked for a large interstate company and belonged to a powerful union–but neither provided health insurance.
When I met my wife Gladys, I became aware of the tragedies that had struck her family because of medical expenses. Her brother developed a chronic and ultimately fatal illness at the tail end of the 1930s. The cost of surgery and around-the-clock oxygen tent and other services ruined my father-in-law financially, and to a degree physically. He was a successful homebuilder, but because he could not pay both medical bills and mortgage payments he lost three houses to foreclosure. He belonged to a strong union, but it offered no health insurance.
I am experienced enough in the health insurance business (53 years) to know what happened to change all this. Employer-provided health insurance got its first big boost during World War II when businesses were subjected to very high corporate taxes. As an alternative to paying the higher taxes, large companies offered tax-deductible health insurance to their employees. To be competitive for labor during and after the war, the practice spread among major companies. But small business was still left out of the loop.
It was not until the late 1940s and 1950s that tens of thousands of insurance agents, like me, began knocking on the doors of small businesses to tell them about health insurance products that had been developed for them. Such plans helped our smaller enterprises to be competitive for labor while relieving millions of American families of the fear associated with medical costs. It was a highly competitive market, which prevented companies from raising rates beyond reasonableness. All in all, it was a most successful venture benefiting everyone involved. In fact, it was so successful that today some groups have raised access to health insurance to a “right.” It is, I believe, a great testimony to the health insurance industry that so many today are not subject to the financial pressures of medical expenses.
But I also observed that as health insurance became firmly implanted in our culture, things began to change. Pressure groups began to lobby for mandated coverages that at first were optional. As these groups succeeded, choices available to businesses and individuals, as to coverage, became fewer. Covering those conditions, some of which were not even insurable risks, caused premiums to rise for everyone.