What If Car Insurance Were Like Health Insurance?
nsurance is supposed to be something you hope to never, ever use.
Not even once.
That’s how, for example, car insurance works. If you’re careful and lucky, you’ll “waste” money on it your whole life, and never need to make a claim. You are just pooling a risk with everyone else, and only a few of you should need to cash it in, per year.
But imagine if we all had car “insurance” that covered routine things we expect to need, like oil changes and gasoline.
Since we, and the insurance company, know we will be paying for these things regularly; our insurance cost will go up by the full amount of what we’d have paid anyway, plus the extra overhead for their bureaucratic costs and profit.
You Pay Extra for “Free” Stuff
If your car insurance now costs $800/year, and you spend another $800/year on gas/oil, for a total of $1,600/year, the price of your insurance will probably go up to well over that. For example, with a mere 10% profit margin, plus another 10% in bureaucratic costs, the extra $800 would cost you $160 on top of itself.
So you’d pay $1,760 to have “full coverage”, instead of $1,600 to have normal insurance and buy your own gasoline and oil changes.
But, worse, since we’re not actually paying for each gallon and pint out of pocket, demand for gasoline and oil changes will go up, which will increase the price. It will increase it a lot.
Think of how much people changed behavior because gas prices were high in 2008. It dramatically cut demand. People bought more economical cars, moved closer to work, didn’t drive on distant vacations as often, et cetera. And this helped cut the cost of gas back in half, because the price is set by, in part, a combination of supply and demand.
With gasoline costing “nothing”, people would feel free to buy cars that get worse gas mileage. They would feel better about living farther from work. They could go on road trips as often and far as they pleased.
So the price of gasoline would skyrocket.
But since most people would have “full coverage” insurance, they wouldn’t even notice that.
What we all would notice is the price of car insurance going through the roof.
Let’s say the price of gasoline only doubles, back to its 2008 prices. Now people are using $1,600 in gasoline per year…except they’re also driving more. Let’s say only 25% more…that’s $2,000 in gasoline. Including the profit margin and bureaucratic cost, that means the price of “full coverage” goes from $1,760 per year to $3,200 per year.
But it doesn’t stop there…the insurance company doesn’t really have the same incentive, nor power, to hold down prices that consumers do.
Oh, pundits imagine they do, because they’re big companies and all that…but they lack the power of the actual consumer: They can’t make people stop driving and getting oil changes. So the oil and gas providers are able to start raising prices, as long as they can justify it…and when money’s involved, people can justify a lot. For example, now the gas stations and quick lube joints have to pay a whole second staff just to handle the “insurance” paperwork, in order to get paid for the gasoline and oil changes we buy.
So the price of gas and oil will go up even more than supply and demand would require…which means that $3,200/year for “full coverage” car insurance is only the start. If we add a mere 10% on that for the oil/gas companies’ insurance compliance staff, plus another 10% for padding they can get away with because the insurance company can’t make its customers stop going in response to high prices, then $3,840 per year.
The Uninsured Suffer
Of course, one group will feel the pinch of gasoline and oil change prices going up:
We who are smart enough not to waste our money on “full coverage”, but buy our gasoline and oil out of pocket, saving the twenty percent overhead on the insurance. But now we’re paying insanely high prices for these things, either way.
In fact, soon nobody without “full coverage” car insurance will feel like they can afford to drive, because gasoline and oil changes are so expensive.
Inevitably, this would all balloon into a:
Car Care Crisis
Media and Liberal politicians would be demanding that government insure all Americans who are not already covered, and that they “control car care costs”, which would be expanding to cripple the economy.
They would, surely, try to nationalize automotive care…they already hate that we drive so much, they say so all the time. Instead of trying specific, reasonable things, of course, they’d demand that we put all eggs in one basket with a single, gigantic, hurried bill passed into law, all or nothing.
This, of course, will end up making things worse, as such brute-force government interventions always do.
All because people were foolish enough to start buying “insurance” for predictable, regular needs, instead of only for catastrophes they hope will never happen anyway.
Health Insurance = Car Insurance
This is what is happening, now, in the health care industry.
We are paying up to $8,000 per year for a family of five, in order to get “full coverage” that pays for our normal checkups, our doctor’s visits for colds, the flu, emergency room visits for skinned knees and sprained ankles…and then we are paying for ALL of that minor, predictable stuff, plus profit and bureaucratic costs, and increased paperwork costs from health care providers, and padding of costs handed off to insurance companies…through skyrocketing health insurance prices.
Before government stepped in, health insurance was only for rare emergencies. It cost a tiny fraction of what it does today, even considering inflation. But then government took over half of health care spending with the socialized Medicare/Medicaid programs, and forced employers to offer “full coverage” health insurance, hiding the cost you pay by deducting it from what they would offer you in the first place.
The crisis this created is exactly what we should expect to happen. The problem is simply that we’re paying middleman, for no reason whatsoever, and getting exactly what we deserve.
September 10, 2009 - Posted by kazvorpal | Economy, Family, Health, Politics | auto insurance, car insurance, economics, health care, health care crisis, health insurance, hmo, insurance, medicaid, medical industry, medicare, medicine, nationalized health care, public option, socialism
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This site has its origins before the word “Blog” existed. Back then its owner, Kaz, was simply thought of as having a website that published socio-political articles with regularity…But the only real difference was that the RSS/XML protocals were not yet used this way.
The website was known as Site of the Sentient, a reference to the famous Words of the Sentient, that Kaz had been editing for years previously.
When some random portal site hijacked the domain siteofthesentient.com, it was a dark time for the human knowledge quest. Fortunately, But Now You Know is striving to take up the slack, and even has some revamped versions of the original articles, for example Conscription, is it Slavery, and How to Get Out of Jury Duty, and be a hero instead of a bad citizen.
Kaz is a writer, graphic artist, and supplements his income by being a hardcore senior web developer.
Along with this blog, you can track his efforts with the dedicated facebook page here.
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