April 1, 2013
CATASTROPHIC AND AN HSA:
Health and Human Services Secretary Doesn't Understand What Insurance Is (Megan McArdle Mar 27, 2013, Daily Beast)
Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2013 8:18 PM
[I]t's the catastrophe which makes insurance a good deal. You wouldn't get much value from buying "grocery insurance". At best, you'd be paying an extra administrative fee to route your routine expenses through an insurer, rather than paying them directly. At worst, you'll end up with bills skyrocketing as all sorts of perverse incentives appear. After all, if the insurer is paying all your grocery claims, why not load up on filet mignon instead of ground turkey?But insurers try very hard never to sell insurance for less than the cost of your expected claims. If you expect to buy $10,000 worth of groceries next year, it will not charge you less than that for a "grocery policy". And if we all drive up the costs of grocery insurance by consuming more, the insurer can do one of two things: raise everyone's "insurance premiums" to cover a filet mignon budget, or create a list of "approved groceries" that it will cover, and start hassling anyone who tries to file an excessively expensive claim.Sound familiar?This is why you should always have liability insurance, but should think twice about collision damage coverage. It's why high deductibles are a good idea--for small expenses, it's better to self insure. And it's why "catastrophic" health plans, which only cover the sort of extremely expensive events that most people would have difficulty financing, are a much better deal than the soup-to-nuts plans that most people get through their employers. Those plans are expensive, both because they're paying for a higher percentage of your expenses, and because they drive up utilization--which means that they drive up next year's premiums even more. Imagine what your car insurance would cost if it covered gasoline, routine maintenance, and those little air freshener trees you hang from the rearview mirror. Then stop asking why health insurance costs so much.