In today’s world of high cost medical care, health insurance is essential. From a routine doctor’s visit to a trip to the emergency room, there is no denying that health care has become one of our largest expenses. Without an adequate insurance plan, health care would not be affordable for millions of people in this country. Health insurance companies operate on the principle of collectivism. Consumers pool their money, which is managed by the company, with the idea that small, monthly contributions by individuals will cover the medical needs of the many. For the individual, this means that by making these small monthly payments, any unforeseen health problem or injury will be covered by their policy, thereby saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars, and more in some cases. For the insurance companies, it means a steady influx of money.
Previous to the 19th century, the idea of insurance was largely unheard of. Medical expenses were paid via a fee-for-services model; much like you would pay a landscaper or roofer to work on your home. In America, the first company to offer “accident insurance” was the Franklin Health Assurance Company of Massachusetts during the mid-1800’s. While this insurance was primarily for medical coverage resulting railroad or steamboat injury, the idea quickly caught on and within 20 years the number of companies offering such insurance increased exponentially.
The health insurance industry as we recognize it today has largely developed just within the last four or five decades. Most comprehensive insurance policies today cover an entire range of health care needs, from routine doctor’s visits and preventative medicine to major surgery and long term hospitalization. In recent years, many insurance policies have included prescription drug coverage as well. An insurance policy is essentially a contract between you and the company providing the insurance. By signing the policy, you agree to pay a monthly fee as well as agree to any pre-determined clauses that might be set forth by the insurance company. They, in turn, agree to pay for any doctor’s visits or medical procedures that are covered by the policy, which must be clearly defined in the “evidence of coverage” part of the contract. The amount of money in which you are required to pay can vary significantly from one policy to another. Aside from your monthly premium, additional expenses such as co-payments and deductibles common and should be thoroughly understood before signing any insurance policy.
The idea of “universal health care” is a hot topic of debate right now in both public and private circles. Currently, the United States is the only westernized country in the world that does not provide universal coverage for its citizens. Arguments abound on each side of the issue. For some, the idea of universal health care goes against the traditional American ideals of capitalism. Yet for others, proper health care is a right of every citizen, just as is the right to vote or the right to assemble. It is a debate that has been ongoing for decades and shows no signs of going away in the near future.