We seem to be running a ‘healthcare’ theme to fit the national mood. Trying to predict what will happen once everyone has affordable, decent health care coverage? Here’s our experience:
-When a small child nearly sheared off her pinkie, why yes, we did spend two surgeries, PT, etc etc to get it back in order. Knowing full well it was was only a pinkie. Felt a little extreme, but on the other hand, we’re glad to have a pretty useful little finger in exchange. If said finger hadn’t survived the attempt, we’d feel like we had been extravagant. But it did and is faring quite well, so instead we feel like it was money well spent. That said, sincerely doubt anyone — us or doctors — would have put such an effort into the little finger if we lived in a place where we expected to pay the full cost out of pocket. We are quite grateful for insurance.
-When a much smaller child came down with croup in the middle the night (4th child, but our first run-in with croup), the first instinct was to run to the ER. Which is close to home, well-run, and for which we have insurance. But, would have involved being out for hours, and probably would have ended with “Your child isn’t on death’s door. Go home and put her in the shower”. Luckily we had a handy baby book and DH remembered a co-worker telling us what to do for croup. Between the two, we were set. Shower did the trick first time, out into cool wet night air did it the second time, and in between we (I) just stayed with her through the night to make sure nothing worse developed. Next day I considered calling the pediatrician (no charge) for some advice and reassurance, but decided we had it under control and didn’t need to speak to the nurse in order to be told what we had already figured out. Croup summary: Even with a kinda scary incident and inexpensive or free healthcare, the hassle factor outweighed the need for reassurance. [I assure you, we’d be in the ER in a second if the baby was showing signs of distress.]
My brilliant economic analysis based on those anecdotes: I don’t have any idea what will happen post-Obamacare. I know that good insurance does encourage us to seek treatment we otherwise might decline. I think in many cases we end up with a better health care decision as a result. More accurately: we end up with better health. I also know that “just because it’s free” doesn’t always mean we’re going to seek the treatment or professional advice.
My best guess on health care usage is that we”ll see an increase in visits for more “minor” situations. Including much more preventive care, which means we’ll see a corresponding decrease in last-minute emergency care for people who put off going to the doctor. I think on the whole, this will help with our nation’s overall physical health.
I’m hopeful that the health care exchanges will help the economy by allowing individuals to start small businesses without the fear of losing corporate health care. I’m concerned that this will be run about as well as we run our other government functions: sometimes quite well, but sometimes quite badly.
I think that financially it is all very much part of the current national habit. Take a look at this year’s 1040 forms. Have you noticed the creep in complexity over the past decade? (Have you noticed that an awful lot of people don’t do their own taxes anymore? Um, excuse me? How have we gotten to the point that a worksheet of basic arithmetic has generated an entire profession?) I think we have reached a point where we expect our government’s work to be complex and burdensome, and we expect to be in debt. As long as we think all that is normal, we should not be surprised our economy isn’t so healthy.
Which reminds me, I need to go clean my house. Happy Holy Week.