Health-care holdup

Jeff vonKaenel

July 1 marked the beginning of the new fiscal year. But there were no parties and no champagne. The most noteworthy event of this special day for our business, and many other businesses, is our new health-insurance bill. And it is quite a bill.

This year’s bill for the News & Review will be around $325,000. Our employees will be paying their share of these costs, ranging from about $9 to $160 a month, plus co-pays whenever they receive treatment. It is painful for all of us to write those health-care checks.

Frankly, I have a problem writing any kind of check. When I go to a Sacramento River Cats ball game, I park my car on a residential street in Sacramento and walk over to West Sacramento so I do not have to pay for parking. My favorite cuisine is two-for-one. I have a sensitive back: Any hotel bed that costs more than $100 causes spasms.

So, it really is torture to write the health-insurance check, and even more so because I believe so much of this money is wasted. I was a sociology major in college and only took one biology class, but still, I am fairly certain that European and Asian bodies are very similar to North American bodies. But we Americans are paying significantly more for less coverage. It is a disgrace.

Why should our specialists make such obscenely high salaries? They don’t in Europe. Why can’t the government negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for better rates? They do in Europe. Why do we allow doctors to set up surgical centers for the primary purpose of maximizing their own income? They don’t allow this in Europe. Why do we have health-insurance companies that are set up for the sole purpose of making a profit from health care? Why? Why? Why? The list goes on and on.

It is a holdup. And it needs to change. I pay all this money to the insurance companies—why don’t they help me eliminate wasteful expenditures? The government regulates the pharmaceutical industry—why can’t it provide me with information to counter the false claims about new drugs? I’d like to be warned in advance about medical procedures that have little or no value. Before I have my spine fused, I should be able to get information about the costs and benefits of the different options available to me. Someone should tell me that a walk around the block might be better medicine than the statins prescribed for a heart condition.

In most other aspects of our business and personal lives, we are able to gather information that helps us choose better services and save money. With better information, my employees could not only reduce their health-care bills, they would also be healthier. That is one of the potential benefits of health-care reform. Changes like this would make the new fiscal year worth celebrating.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.