I had my annual physical this week. As health care goes these days, my physical is quite a bargain since my insurance company picks up the tab.
Other trips to the doctor hit the pocketbook a bit harder, but not as hard as it would be if I didn’t have insurance. While we all want good medical care, I’ve always wondered whether insurance was the best way to get there.
When my grandparents immigrated to the United States from Denmark in 1920, medical insurance didn’t exist. Although a rudimentary form of health insurance was attempted in the Civil War years, it wasn’t until modern medicine evolved in the 1920s that a precursor of the non-profit Blue Cross was founded in 1929.
Commercial insurance companies, wary of their ability to accurately assess risks associated with health care, eventually got into the act in the 1940s as companies added the perk as a way to lure potential employees.
It’s been chaos ever since as the rising quality and cost of medical care have bedeviled health care providers, politicians and ordinary people who are steadily losing ground while trying to balance health and wealth.
By the time my grandparents reached their retirement years, Medicare was in place. They lived for decades after that and I honestly don’t recall much discussion in our family about the high cost of medical care. That includes my parents, who undoubtedly had their fair share of medical expenses with three rambunctious sons who regularly needed stitching up, bottles of medicated goo and injections of the most potent infection fighters then available to man.
How times have changed. Health care is probably issue No. 1 with people past the age of 50.
Ironically, the biggest benefactors of health insurance are the biggest losers, health-wise. For example, if I collect $1,000 of health care from my insurance company after paying $200 in premiums and co-pays, that means the company must collect the remaining $800 from healthy souls just to break even, and they usually do much better than breaking even.
As you research your family history, you’ll find plenty of health-related stories – relatives who died too young, surgeries done on kitchen tables, epidemics that crippled communities. How do you think future generations will view health care as it exists today?
Flickr photo courtesy of otisarchives1.