Glitz Versus Gumption

"I don't mean to glitz up the issue," says Ron Silver, "but, well, I do mean to glitz up the issue." Silver is one of a growing breed of movie stars who use their celebrity status for political causes. His latest cause: getting Congress to adopt national health care. But glitz is just what we don't need to reduce health care costs. What we need is gumption: hard work and responsibility. Let's look at some of the reasons for skyrocketing health costs. In every case, the solution comes down to personal responsibility. Reason number one: the way we finance our health care system. The government gives a tax break to companies, not to families, for buying insurance. That means consumers have no incentive to shop and compare medical insurance, the way they do for everything else they buy. The solution? Give tax breaks to individual families, not to companies, so they can choose their own insurance--and the competition will drive costs down. President Bush's proposal of a tax credit or deduction to families is a step in the right direction. Reason number two for rising medical costs is that they are shifted to a third party--namely, the insurance company. Which means neither the patient nor the doctor has an incentive to hold costs down--to ask, is this procedure really necessary? The solution? Create an incentive by giving individuals more responsibility in paying for medical care. A tax credit, again, is a good step, because it gives families more choice over benefits, and forces them to ask which ones are really necessary. Reason number three for rising costs is that many states require coverage of certain procedures. Marriage counseling is mandated in California, hairpieces in Minnesota, sperm-bank deposits in Massachusetts. Even if you never buy a hair piece or use a sperm bank, if you live in that state you pay your share of the coverage. The solution, obviously, is to get rid of government mandates. Families should pay only for the coverage they really need. Reason number four is a change in the purpose of insurance. Insurance used to provide protection only against major illnesses and accidents--heart failure, broken bones, that kind of thing. But now insurance covers every office visit, every test, every prescription, no matter how minor the illness--which vastly inflates the costs of health care. The solution? Families should pay out of pocket for minor ailments. It's actually cheaper in the long run. Financial guru Charles Givens advises families to raise the deductible on their insurance to $1000 and pay all lesser expenses themselves. That would cut insurance premiums up to 45 percent--and make you think twice about running to the doctor for every sniffle. In every case, the solution to rising health costs is greater personal responsibility--to choose between insurance companies, to choose only the benefits you need, to pay for minor ailments yourself. Personal responsibility--that's a concept that should resonate deeply within the heart of every Christian. It may not be a glitzy answer--the kind politicians and movie actors like. But it's a profoundly biblical answer to our health care crisis.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary