Surgery Center of Oklahoma Blog

June 14, 2011

Worker’s Compensation and Cost Shifting

Filed under: Uncategorized — surgerycenterok @ 6:56 pm

Why is it that when you enter your place of work your health insurance no longer applies and “worker’s compensation insurance” takes over?  Why is it that when you enter and start your car that anything that happens to you there is no longer covered by your regular health insurance?  Why is it that when you turn 65 your insurance no longer covers you and you must go on the Medicare dole?  What is going on here?  How did all of this come about?

The great intellectual  economist Murray Rothbard encouraged us to utilize the concept of “who benefits,” or cui bono, when trying to figure something like this out that at first might not make sense.  This is very useful when unravelling political dealings:  just start with the question, “who benefits”  from this or that policy or law and you are well on your way to getting to the bottom of the mystery.  Who benefits from all of the risk of the workplace or the car or old age being carved out of your regular health insurance?  If you said, “my health insurance company,” you go to the head of the class!  Think about it.  If you ran an insurance company and were trying to maximize profits, you would collect as much premium as you could and you would reduce your exposure or risk to the extent that you could.  Every move that reduced your insurance company’s exposure to risk would increase the likelihood of a profitable venture.  Many political successes and fortunes have been made due to enabling the insurance industry in these efforts.

Is this an example of cost-shifting?  I don’t know why not.  Big insurance companies have shifted the costs and liabilities of workplace injuries, car wrecks and the health problems of old age away from their balance sheets and to ours.  Now we must buy worker’s compensation insurance, automobile liability polices with health coverage and the public is bankrupted with Ponzi schemes like Medicare.

I thought of this while watching the latest political theatre surrounding the reform of worker’s compensation here in Oklahoma.  The smoke screen resulting from the discussion of all of the meaningless details keeps most folks from thinking about the above questions.

Why not have our health insurance cover us all of the time and eliminate worker’s compensation?  Oh well, this idea never had a chance during the last legislative session here in Oklahoma.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.

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