The real issue, IMHO, is not the “for-profit” elements that drive much of our system, but the fact that our healthcare system is really designed to handle acute illnesses, not chronic illnesses, is a serious issue that the industry is not adequately prepared to address. Because of this, the healthcare industry has tried to minimize its exposure to this risk. In that regard, the U.S. lacks sufficient governance of the healthcare insurance industry. For example, “pre-existing” conditions such as diabetes enables the healthcare industry to deny coverage … to me, that sounds a lot like redlining, which is illegal when it comes to other types of insurance, yet is tolerated in the healthcare insurance industry. The practice is not only legal, but since management of for-profit insurance companies have a fiduciary responsibility to serve their shareholders, its encouraged under our current laws. These things really do need to be addressed by legislators.
While Next Dimensions suggests that individuals are in control of everything, I believe the reality isn’t quite so simple. For example, as individuals, we cannot prescribe for ourselves insulin (which is absolutely required in order to sustain life in the case of type 1 diabetes), syringes, testing supplies, etc., so we must interact with the healthcare system in order to get these things, and we also rely on labs for routine bloodwork required to effectively manage the condition. As for managing things as individuals, its really no surprise, but individuals cannot buy medical services at comparable costs as large group policies can. For example, insurers negotiate prices for various services, medicines, etc., yet the cost passed along to an uninsured individual may be 8000% higher than what insurers pay for the identical services. Not really equitable, is it?
Again, regulators can and should be doing something here. True, individuals cannot negotiate prices as an insurer might, but we could if we were represented as a buying collective. So far, no one has bothered to look into that, either.
I am not necessarily opposed to a single-payer system (some systems work very well, such as Sweden’s), nor do I want to end the current for-profit system. Both have merits, virtues and drawbacks. But we have let the system govern itself for so long that now 46 million Americans lack healthcare coverage (most of whom are employed full-time, according to the Kaiser Foundation), and the industry gets upset when someone tries to “regulate” them because they believe in free markets … but if it were a truly free market (which it isn’t), their protected little oligopoly would not exist, and we might have some competition.