Health Insurance is Not Health Care

David Hogberg reminds politicians of something they should already know in an op-ed in the Washington Times today:

Politicians and pundits lump the terms “health care” and “health insurance” together as though they are the same thing. For example, Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, recently said, “One in 6 Americans does not have access to health care. And in my home state of Montana, an even greater percentage of people have limited access to health care: 1 in 5 Montanans lack health insurance.”

In reality, however, health care and health insurance are quite different. Health care is the products and services used for the prevention, treatment and management of illness. Health insurance, on the other hand, is a way of paying for health care. Specifically, it is an agreement whereby the insurer pays for the health care costs of the insured.

Believing health care and health insurance are the same thing easily leads to some mistaken, if not dangerous, notions. It leads to the beliefs that (1) universal health care and universal health insurance are the same; and (2) that if a nation has universal health insurance, where the government pays for every citizen’s health care, that nation will have universal health care, where citizens will have ready access to health care whenever they need it. As the experience of other nations shows, however, universal health insurance often leads to very restricted access to health care…

David goes on to give examples of people in countries with universal health insurance who had to do without health care — sometimes with fatal results. He concludes:

As the debate over the future of the U.S. health-care system proceeds, it is important that we — and especially lawmakers who will craft health policy — understand the very real difference between health care and health insurance. It is vital we realize universal health insurance is not the same as universal health care. Universal health insurance provided by the government leads to rationing of health care that has adverse impacts on health, including death. Thus, we should be highly skeptical of politicians promising to improve our health care system with universal health insurance.


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