Table of Contents

Healthcare Industry Principles

1. Catastrophic Single-Payer; Mandatory Routine Visits

Just like car insurance is for car wrecks, mandatory health insurance should only be for unforeseen health emergencies” and pregnancies for low income individuals (because it is definitely in the public interest to ensure healthy pregnancies), not for regular check-ups or dental visits, vision exams or minor health problems (main idea adopted from Jon Ogden & Bentivegna JF). If an insurance were to cover minor expenses such as these, the market forces acting upon the end consumer (namely co-payments) would be sufficiently diluted so as not to be an effective force protecting against the wasteful utilization of these services. On the other hand, to guard against many people’s natural tendency to delay regular check-ups or dental visits or treatment of minor health problems in order to save money (but risk an increased rate of “unforeseen health emergencies” in the future), the government (preferably state, but could be federal) should mandate that periodic check-ups and dental visits occur, for example, a minimum of about once a year. (Certain minimum required parameters of measurements and testing would obviously need to be defined as to what would constitute a ‘check-up’ to prevent the evolution of ever more minimum standards.)

Therefore, this type of catastrophic single-payer healthcare program would require a high deductible, perhaps $4,000 for each individual. To prevent the flood of demand from individuals who have reached their deductible, this insurance should be designed to cover a progressively higher percentage of these higher marginal costs. For example, covered costs up to $4,000 would be covered at 100%. (Remember, these covered costs only are for ‘catastrophic’ expenses, not for regular doctor visits, etc. Though these would be required services, they would need to be paid out-of-pocket.) For each dollar of expenditure above $4,000, a progressively higher percent would be covered by this insurance. So that at a total annual expenditure level of $8,000, 25% of the last $4,000 of services purchased for that calendar year would be paid by the insurance. At a total annual expenditure level of $12,000, 50% of the last $8,000 of services purchased would be covered. At an expenditure level of $16,000, 75% of the last $12,000 would be covered, while an expenditure level of $20,000 and above 90% would be covered. Expenses beyond $20,000 would be covered at higher rates, maybe even at 100% at some point, like at $100,000. The ultimate percentage rate of coverage rises for each additional dollar amount spent during a year. So if only $4,160 were spent, the insurance would cover only the $160 portion that exceeded the annual deductible. But since coverage at $4,000 is 0% and coverage at $8,000 is 25% (of the amount above the first $4,000 spent), the actual coverage amount for the $160 amount would be 1%, or $1.60.

Pregnancies, although not an ‘unforeseen health emergency’, should be covered by this type of insurance due to the great potential future public benefits and cost savings that result from ensuring adequate prenatal care, monitoring and a healthy birthing environment. The cost of prenatal care, childbirth, etc, could be distributed between the mother’s and newborn child’s insurance accounts (only for expenses accruing before birth). This means that the parents could decided how much of the bill to ascribe to each person’s medical account. This way, they could take advantage of the increasing coverage at an individual’s higher expenditure levels as proposed in this insurance plan. For example, an average birth costs around $16,000, excluding prenatal care costs. Under this proposal, $9,000 would be paid by the insurance, while the family would need to pay $7,000. As the cumulative total costs for that calendar year increases, the family’s share of such costs decrease.

The easiest way, perhaps, for such reimbursements to occur may be at the point of sale. People who pay for their medical care would, at the point of sale, have their medical account accessed in real time, showing the up-to-the-minute billing history. Computers would quickly where the individual is in relation to total annual spending, and would quickly subtract whatever percentage of costs this health insurance is liable for and determine the amount the patient must pay. Any over billing or discrepancies could be adjusted later. Disputes about whether medical services were needed could also be resolved after the fact. To reduce such confusion or complication, all medical goods and service providers would be pre-approved by the government and would be expected to use good judgement when rendering goods and services. Perhaps over-the-counter goods and services would be exempt from this insurance coverage and only qualified professional referrals for any good or service purchases should be covered. This way, many dubious purchases would not need to be reviewed (or covered) by this government insurance.

The cheapest catastrophic health insurance (on average) any society could get would be one in which everyone pays into and everyone draws from the same pool for all their catastrophic healthcare needs (a single-payer system). The reasons for this are partly due to the massive administrative simplification of the whole process, and largely due to the increased number of people enrolled into the system (namely everyone). But it is also due to the fact that preventive care (when targeted and evidence-based) is cheaper than treating a disease or responding to it later in its development. Catastrophically insuring the currently uninsured or under-insured segments of the population that tend to use the more expensive emergency services (emergency rooms, ambulances, etc.) for relatively minor issues, and mandating that they get regular check-ups would result in more regular doctor visits and the utilization of other services and measures of prevention.

In a multi-payer system, such as our current one, different providers create different policies that cover different needs, resulting in consumers naturally opting out of purchasing coverage that they have a very low likelihood of needing. Thus, at least a portion of the insured universe (generally the healthier individuals) would purchase tailored insurance, resulting in the generation of less revenues from this segment of the population that would otherwise have been used to subsidized the less healthy segments. Thus, these less healthy, higher risk segments would either purchase insurance for themselves at a higher rate or not purchase insurance at all.  These higher premiums and lower purchase rates tend to negatively feed off of each other, significantly reducing the number of people insured.

Adding together the total costs of healthcare per capita for insured individuals (administrative expenses, preventive care, emergency care, insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs, etc.), the total healthcare costs under a catastrophic single-payer system which require out-of-pocket expenditures for routine medical visits would be lower (assuming similar services for comparison) than the total healthcare costs under our current multi-payer system.

A catastrophic single-payer health insurance system with a high deductible (and into which all healthcare-related expenses for an individual are included) and mandatory routine medical visits would appear to be the best system to ensure adequate medical coverage for all people at the lowest prices, while sufficiently maintaining the positive influence of market forces and the freedom of people to choose their own healthcare providers.

If so desired, individuals could then purchase insurance in the private market to cover the portion of expenses that would not be covered under this proposed catastrophic single-payer health insurance plan.

Vision & Dental Included

Vision and dental insurances should not need to be separately purchased. At least minimum levels of coverage should automatically be included. The eyes and teeth are part of the body, and people purchase health insurance for body problems and maintenance, so it doesn’t make sense to place the eyes and teeth in a separate category.

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2. Healthcare Should Not Be a Federal Function

The federal government, ideally, should not have anything to do with the operation or funding of any national healthcare program. This role should be left up to each individual state. The federal government’s involvement should be limited to only its mandate that a catastrophic single-payer system be implemented in each state and perhaps overseeing the creation of an industry-wide communications infrastructure necessary to facilitate its implementation and the exchange of information between the various state agencies. (The Article 6 and the 10th Amendment’s supremacy clause would not allow this federal mandate to the states). The states should raise their own taxes to fund this program; the federal government should not financially participate.

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3. Comprehensive Health Statistics Database

A great need exists for the creation of one standardized, comprehensive database containing virtually all conceivable types of human population health statistics.  Such a database would lead to a much easier identification of trends over time as well as correlations between different variables. It would also enable the conduct of far more efficient and effective scientific studies.

Instead of surveyors going out to various places or instead of survey mailings being sent out to individuals, perhaps the most logical place in which to gather such statistics would be at healthcare facilities, such as physician offices, community health centers, hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies, hospice organizations, elementary and secondary schools and anywhere else healthcare services are imparted or healthcare data is received.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) should be required to develop, with input from healthcare providers, a standardized system by which every healthcare provider in the nation would be able to quickly and accurately (and ideally, automatically and seamlessly–i.e., without much dedication of resources) register every type of human healthcare service delivered as well as every type of healthcare data generated.  Currently, several departments within the DHHS specialize in collecting various statistics.  My proposal is to consolidate all these human health statistics into one standardized database in order to unify that data and make it easier to conduct searches and study. Virtually every conceivable activity (good or service) relating to human physical and mental health (including referrals and discussions) should generate an input into this system. All of this data sent to this statistics database should be stripped of personally identifiable information. Examples of the types of data that should be entered into this system would be vital statistics (births, deaths, etc.), laboratory tests and the results, medical procedures and operations conducted (how and with what kinds of materials) and followup information (quickness of recovery, side-effects, etc.), immunizations given, medications prescribed, illness, insurance coverage, risk factors, health-related behaviors, diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions, growth and development statistics, overweight and obesity statistics, diet and nutrition, environmental exposures, access to and use of health services, prenatal care, birth weights, psychological and behavioral assessments, any kind of physical or mental symptoms or behavior, thought patterns or processes or any other significant data the patient offers, etc.

To ensure that such data is consistently and reliably transmitted to this central database, perhaps it should be a licensing requirement that every healthcare practitioner register with this database and set up a their own approved arrangement for transferring/inputting such statistical data.

In addition to hard numerical data like blood tests and weight and height measurements, one of the main goals of this database should be to collect basic data regarding mental health.  The potential of this rapidly expanding field is enormous, to say the least.  There is a great deal to learn and asking the entire population a series of questions over a long period of time designed to probe the mind would enable us to gather data on long-term patterns of thought and behavior. Gaining basic but comprehensive standardized data now will be invaluable to researcher many decades into the future.  Perhaps the entire population should undergo brain scans periodically and these should be regular bits of information contributed to this database. This way, correlations between brain scan maps and information gained by the questioning would enable researchers to advance the scientific understanding of brain functions far faster than would otherwise be the case.

This data should be formatted in accordance with an open data standard convention so that it is much more accessible for research.

Database With Personally Identifiable Information Included

Personally identifiable information should be linked in with this database so that a patient’s doctor and other authorized personnel would be able to actually service the patient. However, the public database described above should have all of this personally identifiable information stripped from it.

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4. Comprehensive Regulatory Authority

Expanded Regulatory Authority

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should have the authority to regulate anything that is designed to be admitted into or applied onto the human body as well as the containers designed to hold such things. Examples would include, food, medicines, lotions, shampoos, cigarettes, cups, plates, utensils, sandwich bags, food storage containers, etc.

Even Unapproved Stuff Should Be Made Available

All medications and medical procedures that are not approved by the FDA or any other government organization should not be absolutely prohibited as options to the consumer. But consumers who choose to partake of such unapproved drugs or procedures must be made aware of the fact that there may be unknown possible harmful side affects and that, as consumers, they are entitled to all of the available knowledge (from either government records, private company records, or any other source) pertaining to the drugs or procedures, their effectiveness, side effects or any other relevant information. As a condition of accepting these drugs or procedures, consumers must be willing to give up all of their rights to seek any kind of compensation if it turns out that they were harmed by their acceptance of these unapproved drugs or procedures, unless it is shown that relevant information was withheld from the consumers who were harmed. All such drugs, procedures, etc, must be clearly labeled accordingly and users must sign waivers to acknowledge the risks and assume the liability. Authorized medical professionals should naturally be the only people prescribing these drugs so that proper recording of information (administration dates, complications, general progress, etc.) is better assured. People who misrepresent these drugs (by not accurately informing users) should be punished by being disciplined by their medical industry and by the imposition of a fine that factors in the seriousness of the particular offense. This fine should be multiplied by the estimated number of patients affected.

Rating System

The FDA could probably rate each approved and unapproved drug, product, or procedure on a five (or more) step scale indicating that item’s degree of safety relative to all other drugs, products, or procedures in the same category in existence. Levels 2 through 5 drugs (in the classification system below) would all be considered controlled substances, and would not be allowed to be prescribed by unauthorized medical personnel.

Level 1 approval could be classified as among the safest. In this category would be included things like drugs that could be obtained over-the-counter without a doctor’s prescription.

Level 2 approval would be less safe for the average consumer, requiring such drugs to be prescribed to them by some authorized medical professional and require patients to assume some liability for any negative side effects which may result.

Level 3 classifications would include drugs or procedures that are more dangerous or experimental in nature. Patients would be required to assume some liability for any negative side effects which may result.

Level 4 classification could be labeled as experimental and would not have been approved for use and which may present significant potential negative side effects or questionable effectiveness.

Level 5 classifications would exist to specify drugs which have been positively rejected by the FDA because of proven ill effects. These Level 5 (rejected) drugs or procedures could still be used as a last resort by desperate patients who may be willing to try anything. Though significant to major negative side effects may have been associated with their usage, patients should have this option open to them after they assume all liability for the consequences.

Merge the FDA, EPA & OSHA

In addition to the above clearly stated areas of FDA jurisdiction, it may be logically justifiable to extend its jurisdiction so that it would be able to regulate any environmental pollutant that may have a detrimental effect on human beings. Many of these functions would undoubtedly overlap with the EPA. While we’re at it, other agencies related to ensuring human health and safety should be merged into one unified organization.

Thus, the FDA, the EPA and even OSHA should probably be merged into one organization and given a name that would more accurately describe its functions. Within this unified agency, there should exist separate departments that focus on dealing with the health and safety of human food sources (including medicines and topical products like creams, shampoos, etc.), manufactured product safety (toaster ovens, paints, telephones, etc.), the regulation of macro-level environmental pollutants (soot, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, etc.), and workplace safety and ergonomic product designs.

Chemical ‘Clean’ List

All chemicals (old or new) that are incorporated into any anthropogenic product must pass basic environmental health safety tests and be placed on a ‘clean’ list of approved chemicals.

Such a list could be referred to by anyone else who is in the market for a new chemical to use in any other product. The decision of a person to use any chemical on this approved list would ensure that that person would not need to subject the chemical to any fundamental health and safety tests, thus saving them lots of time and expense.

The default government regulatory position should be for all new chemicals to automatically be placed on a ‘prohibited’ list until such chemicals have passed the proper human and environmental safety tests. Chemicals which have passed would then be placed on the ‘clean’ list, eligible for use.

Instead of chemicals being assumed safe until being proven dangerous, they should be assumed dangerous until being proven safe. This would naturally increase the cost of introducing new chemicals into the environment and thus, naturally encourage people to use existing chemicals for whatever products they want to produce.  A beneficial side effect of such a policy would be that a larger body of evidence would accumulate faster and be available to help speed up the declaration of safe or unsafe chemicals already in existence.

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