Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Insurance vs. Assurance

By Dennis Hinkamp

How about a national health assurance program?
by Dennis Hinkamp

For full impact, imagine Jesse Jackson saying this: “What we need isn’t health insurance, but health assurance.”

Think about it. There is nothing good associated with the word insurance. Insurance salesmen are the comic relief character in every movie and only rank slightly higher than grave robber in career aspirations. Sure, insurance is there to protect you, but the time you get to use it is when something goes terribly wrong.

For instance, you probably hardly know you have auto insurance except when the bill comes or you’re in an accident. Sure, you’re glad that you’re covered, but mostly you miss having a functional car.

If you’re lucky enough to have health insurance you would probably be just as happy not to use it. I know that I need regular colonoscopies for my health, but the process doesn’t seem like much of a privilege. Then, of course, the ultimate negative word association is life insurance. You feel guilty if you don’t buy enough of it for your loved ones. Your loved ones feel guilty after buying a sports car with the money they received from your death.

So why not get rid of all the bad mojo that goes with the word “insurance” and change directions completely with a health assurance program?

Under a health assurance program you might feel a little better about yourself. Whether it’s a bunch of doctors or evil government burreaucrats, personally I’d feel a lot better if I thought someone was trying to assure my health rather than just insure it against catastrophe.

Under the new health assurance program you’ll get time off to exercise. The program will throw in some new shoes and stylish Pilates clothes if that’s what it takes to get you off the couch. How about a discount on bicycle as though it were a hybrid car? No problem.

Fruits and vegetables would be subsidized, and anything with more than one slice of bacon in it will be taxed in the same way we tax cigarettes. We might even try bacon-free sections in restaurants for those who lose their resolve when they just get a whiff of it. A health assurance program would put as many dietitians on the streets as cops.

We are never going to be able to tax obese, slothful people, but we could reward fit active people with some sort of reduced airline rates and their own checkout lines at the supermarket. It would be the express line with the really good gossip magazines to gawk at during your short wait. The way kids are addicted to video games and texting now, we might get some action by giving free cell phone plans to kids who reach some health and fitness goals.

Any health reform plan this administration comes up with is going to fail if it doesn’t add a little more assurance to the insurance.

Dennis Hinkamp is currently recovering from one of those routine procedures mentioned above.




This article was originally published on July 30, 2009.