Matt Taibbi versus Sensible Health Care

In a blog post at Rolling Stone, Journalist In Name Only Matt Taibbi accuses the media of “help[ing] sandbag health care reform.” In the rambling, incoherent post, Taibbi goes on to complain about his current private insurance plan and how he “can’t have the pleasure of a routine proctological exam unless I want to pay cash for it.” Given his profanity-laced description (which I won’t re-post here), it appears he has some sort of high-deductible plan.

Many on the left are critical of of health savings accounts and high-deductible health care plans, claiming they reduce consumption of preventive health care and drive up costs in the long-run. Now, leaving aside the dubious-at-best projected cost savings that can be practically realized through increased preventive care (and new research suggests that shifting toward a “preventive care model” will likely increase overall health care expenditures), let’s tie this into the oft-repeated fact that many personal bankruptcies are driven by massive health care bills. But what exactly are these financially-ruinous health care expenditures? Well, routine, expected exams and clinic visits are not the culprits; chronic illnesses and unexpected emergencies are. This is the point of HSAs and HDHPs. You pay out of pocket for normal, relatively low-cost care, and purchase insurance to protect yourself from extremely costly, unexpected catastrophic events. In fact, this is supposed to be the point of insurance.

Unfortunately, the current system incentivizes the purchase of low-deductible policies that cover annual physicals and regular exams, but don’t cover high-cost medical emergencies or conditions.