How to fix a problem 101: Address the cause

The city decided to start providing water to the runners at all the charity runs. It was for a good cause, and the runners needed the water, and it would be a good gesture of support to the community. So the city contracted a company to provide the water and it went well for the first year, but the next year the company raised their prices, just a little. They said they were switching over all the water to bottled water, which the runners had been preferring. The city agreed, and another brilliant year of charity runs went by. At the end of the year, the company again raised their prices, indicating that they were upgrading to higher quality water. The city again agreed and another year of runs was soon completed. At the end of that year, the company said they had found a great response to the few water misters they had installed that year, so they were increasing the prices again. The city wanted to keep the runners happy and so agreed to the price increase again. And so it went, year after year – the runners were getting water, energy gel packs, sunblock, sunglasses – until the city decided to add a small fee to the entrance price of all the races, so all the runners could chip in for the benefits that were offered.

After a few years, the company’s prices kept increasing, and the fees kept increasing, and the runners reacted: Some runners didn’t care. They didn’t think about it too much. Others thought it was reasonable, since everything that was offered was good for them. Others were irate that they were being forced to pay for things they didn’t use much, or at all.

If you were the city, would you continue accepting the increased costs and raising your fees? Is there anything else you would do? Got your idea? Great. Now let me change a few things in the story.

Say instead of water and sunblock, it was health care. And say the company was an insurance company. And instead of the city, it was the federal government. And let’s call the fee a tax.

We need water. Everyone should have water.

And we need health care. But do we need bottled water and energy gel? Do we need the number of MRIs, CTs, and surgical treatments that are provided every year in this country? Studies have found many of them unnecessary, so many, in fact, that it is one of the main drivers of our relentlessly increasing cost of health care. The other factors? Administrative costs of working with different insurance companies.
And the third factor: People not following their doctors’ orders.

So, who gets the blame? People for wanting better stuff? The city or the company for wanting to give the people what they want? Everyone is responsible, which means no one should be blaming anyone. Pointing fingers at selfish insurance companies or rich doctors or people who choose to be unhealthy does nothing except deny each of us our responsibility.

Would you do what the current government is doing and force a water tax on everyone, regardless of their responsible use of the water?

Would you continue to feed the beast of the health care system as costs increase year after year after year?

Or would you try to bring down the cost of the product by addressing why we’re using water misters when maybe what we need more of is education and a reusable plastic bottle we can fill from the tap?

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