Health Care Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 20th, 2014

Economics 101

Because Obamacare Insurance pays for everything Under the Sun it is anything but Insurance

Do you know what the problem is with health care?  Insurance plans that give away free flu shots.  Not that flu shots are bad.  They’re not.  And it’s a good thing for everyone to get one every year at the onset of the flu season.  For it does seem to limit the spread of the flu virus.  It’s because we get a flu shot every year is why insurance shouldn’t pay for it.  Because we know about this expense.  And we can budget for it.  Just like we can budget for our monthly cellular bill.  Which is in most cases more than ten times the cost of one annual flu shot.

When Lloyds of London started selling marine insurance at that coffee shop they were selling insurance.  Not welfare.  Losing a ship at sea caused a huge financial loss.  And shippers wanted to mitigate that risk.  So every shipper paid a SMALL premium to protect against a LARGE loss.  A POTENTIAL sinking and loss of cargo.  Not every ship sank, though.  In fact, most ships did not.  Which is why that little bit from everyone was able to pay the financial loss of the few shippers that lost their ship and cargo.  But that’s all that Lloyd’s of London paid for.  They didn’t pay a dime to shippers whose ships didn’t sink.  No, those shippers paid every cent they incurred (crew, food, rum, etc.) to ship things across those perilous oceans.  Because they could expect those costs.  And they could budget for them.

This is how insurance works.  Which isn’t how our current health insurance system works.  No.  Today people don’t want to pay for anything out-of-pocket.  Not the unexpected catastrophic costs.  Or the EXPECTED small costs that everyone can budget for in their personal lives.  Like an annual flu shot.  Childhood vaccinations.  Annual checkups.  Childbirth.  Etc.  Even the unexpected things that aren’t that expensive.  Like the stitches required when a child falls off of a bike.  Things that would cost less than someone’s monthly cellular bill.  Or things that people can plan and save for.  Like a house.  A car.  Or a child.  Which is why Obamacare insurance is not insurance.  It pays for way too many expected costs that we can budget for.  And because it does it only increases the cost of our health insurance policies.  Which are now anything but insurance.

Free Market Forces and Insurance for Catastrophic Costs will Fix any Problems in our Health Care System

When we pay these things out-of-pocket there are market forces in play.  For a doctor is not going to charge someone they’ve been seeing for years as much as he will charge a faceless insurance company.  Even today some doctors will waive some fees to help some of their long-time patients during a time of financial hardship.  Because there is a relationship between doctor and patient.  And they want to help.  Which is why they sometimes overcharge insurance companies to recover costs they can’t recover in full from other patients.  (Which is why insurance companies are vigilant in denying overbillings).  Especially those things government pays for.  Medicaid.  And Medicare.  Which the government discounts.  Leaving health care providers little choice but to overbill others to pay for what the government does not.

When we pay out-of-pocket doctors can’t charge as much.  Because they need patients.  If they charge too much their patients may find another good doctor that charges a little less.  Perhaps a younger one trying to establish a practice.  These are market forces.  Just like there are everywhere else in the economy.  Even a cancer patient requiring an expensive miracle drug benefits from market forces.  If there was true insurance in our health care system, that is.  Cancer is an unexpected and catastrophic cost.  But not everyone gets cancer.  Just as every ship does not sink.  Everyone would pay a small fee to insure against a financial loss that can result from cancer.  Where that little bit from everyone buying a catastrophic health insurance policy was able to pay the financial loss of the unfortunate few that require cancer treatment.  Even one including a costly miracle drug.  Because only a few from a large pool would incur these financial losses insurers would compete against other insurers for this business.  Just like they do to insure houses.  And ships crossing perilous oceans.

Health care would work better in the free market.  It doesn’t today because government changed that.  Starting with FDR putting a ceiling on wages.  Which forced employers to offer generous benefits to get the best workers to work for them when they couldn’t offer them more pay.  This was the beginning.  Now the health insurance industry is so bastardized that it doesn’t even resemble insurance anymore.  It’s just a massive cost transfer from one group of people to another.  Instead of a pooling of money to insure against financial risk.  For the few unexpected and catastrophic costs we cannot afford or budget for to pay out-of-pocket.

Because our Health Care System is the Most Expensive in the World it is the Best in the World

The American health care system is the finest in the world.  When you have a serious health care issue and you have the wherewithal there’s only one place you’re going for your medical care.  The United States.  And the best costs.  And it’s because it is so costly that people enter into the health care industry to do wonderful things.  Such as pharmaceutical companies.  Who many rail against for charging so much for the miracle drugs only they produce.  It’s a free country.  Anyone could have created that miracle drug.  All they had to do was to spend a boatload of money for years on other drugs that were losers.  Until they finally found one that wasn’t a loser.  That’s all you had to do.  Yet few do it.  Why?

Because creating miracle drugs is an extremely expensive and often futile endeavor.  Which is why we award patents to the few who do.  Which is the only reason they pour hundreds of millions of dollars into research and development and pay massive liability insurance premiums for taking a huge risk to put a drug onto the market that may harm or kill people.  They do this on the CHANCE that they may develop at least one successful drug that will pay for all of the costs incurred to develop this one drug, the costs for the countless drugs that failed AND provide a profit for their investors.  Who took a huge risk in paying their employees over the many years it took to come up with at least one drug that wasn’t a loser.  Their investors do this only because of the CHANCE that this pharmaceutical will develop that miracle drug that everyone wants.  But most don’t.  And investors just lose their investment.  But it’s the only way miracle drugs become available to us.  Because of rich investors who were willing to risk losing huge amounts of money.

This is what the profit incentive gives us.  The best health care system in the world.  Why the countries based on free market capitalism have the finest health care systems in the world.  And why North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., have never given us miracle drugs.  There never was an economic incentive throughout the economy to do so.  Like there is in countries with free market capitalism.  Where everyone at every level pursues profits that result overall in a pharmaceutical industry that produces these miracle drugs.

There is an expression that says you get what you pay for.  Our health care system is the most expensive in the world.  And because it is it is the best in the world.  Trying to inhibit the profit incentive for research and development and forcing medical providers to work for less (steeper Medicaid, Medicare and now Obamacare discounts) will change that.  Because you do get what you pay for.  And those who live/have lived in North Korea, Cuba, the former East Germany, the former Soviet Union, Venezuela, etc., can attest to.

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Abject Ignorance of things Economic is Destroying our Health Care System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2014

Week in Review

The problem in America these days is the mass ignorance of the people.  Thanks to a public school system that does not educate but programs our children to be good Democrat voters.  Higher education taken over by the leftist radicals of the Sixties that forever changed the curriculum to teach our children to distrust capitalism and love government.  When controlled by Democrats, of course.  And people who are for some reason respected for their economic prowess who are absolutely clueless on things economic (see The Daily Show Nails Why Healthcare Will Never Work As A Free Market by Christina Sterbenz posted 1/18/2014 on Business Insider).

Steven Brill, author of Time’s in-depth healthcare analysis “Bitter Pill,” appeared on The Daily Show this week to discuss his opinion of Obamacare.

Brill’s work exploded his career into a love-hate relationship with Obamacare, now leading to a book. Speaking with Jon Stewart, Brill certainly made his criticisms known but we also feel like he pinpointed exactly why healthcare just can’t work as a free market.

Brill told the story of a cancer patient forced to pay $13,700 out-of-pocket, up-front for transfusion of a drug. And that cost only constituted part of a greater $83,000 payment. Brill claims, however, the drug only cost the pharmaceutical company $300.

Stewart came back at Brill with the typical, conservative argument — creating a free market for healthcare where patients pick-and-choose their coverage to create competition and therefore, better options.

“Everyone says, well it’s a marketplace. That guy [the cancer patient] has no choice in buying that drug. His doctor told him, ‘This will save your life. You don’t take it, you’re gonna die,'” Brill responded.

He further argued free markets must host two aspects — a balance between buyers and sellers and secondly, knowledge — neither of which the current U.S. system offers.

“That cancer drug has a patent. That is a monopoly that the government has given the drug company. There is no other drug. That’s the drug,” Brill said.

Jon Stewart is a comedian.  So one can almost forgive his ignorance.  But you’d think a person writing for a publication with the word ‘business’ in its name would actually understand business.  But the author hasn’t a clue.  It’s not her fault.  It’s because of the politicizing of our educational system.  As her dual degrees in journalism and public affairs would have taught her squat about the classical, Austrian or the Chicago school of economics.  Instead filling her head with Keynesian nonsense.  The one economic school embraced by power-hungry governments everywhere that has a proven track record of failure.  For it was Keynesian policies that gave us the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970s, the dot-com bubble and recession of the late 1990s/early 2000s and the Great Recession.  Where massive government spending did not pull the economy out of recession but only made things worse.

Why does this pharmaceutical company have a patent?  Or perhaps a better question would be why do we have this one cancer drug?  Why is it that this one pharmaceutical company developed a cancer drug that works that no other pharmaceutical company or government developed?  Because of that patent.  The only reason they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into research and development and paid massive liability insurance premiums for taking a huge risk to put a drug onto the market that may harm or kill people.  They do this on the CHANCE that they may develop at least one successful drug that will pay all of their past costs for this one drug, the costs for the countless drugs that failed AND a profit for their investors.  Who took a huge risk investing, giving this pharmaceutical company the money to pay all of their employees over the years it took to come up with at least one drug that wasn’t a loser.

Does the author of this article work for free?  No.  Of course not.  She has bills.  As we all do.  Even the people working at pharmaceutical companies.  Who don’t work there for free.  Even if the vast majority of their work produces nothing that their employer can sell their employer still pays them.  Thanks to their investors who give them the money to do so until they can actually sell something.  But their investors do this only because of the CHANCE that this pharmaceutical will develop that miracle drug that everyone wants.  A miracle drug that would never come into being if it weren’t for investors who were willing to risk losing huge amounts of money.  Something only rich investors can afford to do.

Health care worked as a free market before General Motors made it an employee benefit thanks to FDR’s ceiling on wages.  Once people stopped paying for what they received all free market forces left the health care system.  And costs began to rise.  This whole “healthcare just can’t work as a free market” is a product of the dumbing down of our educational system.  One that produces people who don’t know the difference between insurance and health care.  Insurance protects our assets against a catastrophic and UNEXPECTED loss.  Like when Lloyds of London started selling marine insurance at that coffee shop.  Every shipper paid a small premium to protect against a POTENTIAL sinking and loss of cargo.  A POTENTIAL financial loss.  Not every ship sank, though.  In fact, most ships did not.  Which is why that little bit from everyone was able to pay the financial loss of the few that did.  For the ships that didn’t sink the shippers paid every other cost they incurred to ship things across those perilous oceans.

This is how insurance works.  Which isn’t how our current health insurance works.  Where people don’t expect to pay for anything out-of-pocket.  Not the unexpected catastrophic costs.  Or the EXPECTED small costs that everyone can budget for in their personal lives.  Childhood vaccinations, annual checkups, flu shots, childbirth, etc.  Even the unexpected things that have a low cost.  Like the stitches required when a child falls off of a bike.  Things that would cost less than someone’s annual cellular costs.  Or things that people can plan and save for (like a house, a car or a child).  When we pay these things out-of-pocket there are market forces in play.  For a doctor is not going to charge someone they’ve been seeing for years as much as a faceless insurance company.  Even today some doctors will waive some fees to help some of their long-time patients during a time of financial hardship.  Because there is a relationship between doctor and patient.

When we pay out-of-pocket doctors can’t charge as much.  Because they need patients.  If they charge too much their patients may find another good doctor that charges a little less.  Perhaps a younger one trying to establish a practice.  These are market forces.  Just like there are everywhere else in the economy.  Even a cancer patient requiring an expensive wonder drug would contribute to market forces if there was true insurance in our health care system.  Cancer is an unexpected and catastrophic cost.  But not everyone gets cancer.  Everyone would pay a small fee to insure against a financial loss that can result from cancer.  Where that little bit from everyone was able to pay the financial loss of the unfortunate few that receive a cancer diagnosis.  Because only a few from a large pool would incur this financial loss insurers would compete against other insurers for this business.  Just like they do to insure houses.  And ships crossing perilous oceans.

Health care would work better in the free market.  It doesn’t today because government changed that.  Starting with FDR putting a ceiling on wages.  Which forced employers to offer generous benefits to get the best workers to work for them when they couldn’t offer them more pay.  This was the beginning.  Now the health insurance industry is so bastardized that it doesn’t even resemble insurance anymore.  It’s just a massive cost transfer from one group of people to another.  Instead of a pooling of money to insure against financial risk.  For the few unexpected and catastrophic costs we could not afford and budget for to pay out-of-pocket.

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FT188: “When it comes to Obamacare the left is either ignorant or devious.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 20th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

People buy Insurance to pay a Small Fee to Insure against a Large and Unexpected Financial Loss

What is insurance for?  To help mitigate a large financial loss.  Crossing the ocean can be dangerous.  There are storms.  Wars.  Even pirates.  Shippers can lose very costly cargoes.  Most ships make it to their destination without incident.  Wise people noted this a long time ago.  And they came up with an idea.  Insurance.

Let’s illustrate this with an example.  Let’s say there are 100 ocean crossings in one year.  Each one of these crossings has cargo valued at $10 million each.  Let’s say of those 100 crossings only three sink.  A loss of $30 million.  A loss few can afford.  But there are only three ships that sink.  And at the beginning of the year no one knows whose ships will sink.  It could be anyone.  And everyone of the anyone has a very strong desire not to be the one losing a ship with a $10 million cargo.  So they are willing to pay a small fee to insure against a greater loss.

Here’s a general idea of how it works.  With 100 crossings valued at $10 million each that’s $1 trillion in total cargo.  Of that $1 trillion there’s a very good chance based on past history that $30 million of it will sink to the bottom of the ocean.  So if we divide that catastrophic loss by those 100 crossings that’s an additional $300,000 insurance cost to add to each of the 100 crossings.  So instead of a possible loss of $10 million a shipper will only have a definite ‘loss’ of $300,000.  Which is far less than $10 million.  And something they can plan for.  As they can add it to the price to their customers.

People don’t buy Health Insurance because a Larger Percentage of the Population doesn’t get Cancer or have Bad Car Accidents

Because of insurance none of these shippers will have to suffer a $10 million loss should it be their ship that sinks to the bottom of the ocean.  This is insurance.  Everyone pays a small fee to protect themselves from a great financial loss.  And that fee is far, far smaller than that potential financial loss.  This is the only way great things get done.  Great things require huge outlays of money.  And no one would risk those outlays if they didn’t have a way to mitigate their losses should their ship sink.  Literally.  Or figuratively.

This is insurance.  Paying a small fee to insure against an unexpected and catastrophic financial loss.  Health insurance today doesn’t do this.  It pays for everything.  Including the routine things we know about and can budget for.  Things that are unlikely to bankrupt us.  Office visits.  Flu shots.  Physicals.  Breast exams.  Colonoscopies.  These are all part of living.  We know we will have these expenses.  Just as we know we have to buy groceries and gasoline.  But there is no grocery and gasoline insurance.  And thank God for that.  They’re expensive enough.  Can you imagine their costs if they went up like health insurance?

The reason why health insurance is so expensive is because it is not insurance.  It doesn’t just pay for the unexpected and catastrophic financial losses.  Like incurred from a cancer diagnosis.  Or a car accident.  It pays for everything.  In our shipping example that would be like those shippers paying a $10 million insurance premium to insure a $10 million cargo.  Which would never happen.  Because it would be less costly to lose the occasional cargo.  Because every ship doesn’t sink.  At most three may in one year.  Even if all three ships were yours it would be cheaper to replace $30 million in cargo than paying $1 billion in insurance premiums.  This is why a lot of people choose NOT to buy health insurance.  Because a larger percentage of the population doesn’t get cancer or have bad car accidents.

The Left learned after the 1994 Mid-Term Elections that they had to Lie to get National Health Care

Obamacare just makes everything worse.  Because it forces insurance companies to pay for even more routine and expected medical expenses.  Increasing the cost of health insurance even more.  Which in turn increases the cost of business.  Which provides most health insurance these days as an employee benefit.  With Obamacare mandates to provide more of everything the cost has grown so much that businesses have been dropping their health insurance benefits.  Or cutting back hours to escape the Obamacare mandates.  Making Obamacare a big part of the anemic economy.  For it is a great disincentive to creating jobs.  And hiring people.

Now, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics knows this.  If you keep raising the cost of business you will see less economic activity.  The left understands this when it comes to interest rates.  It’s why they want to keep printing money to keep interest rates low.  To lower the cost of borrowing so businesses borrow more to expand their businesses.  So they do understand at least one cost of doing business.  But they seem to be completely ignorant when it comes to taxes and regulatory compliance.  For while they worry about rising interest rates hurting business they don’t have any concern about rising taxes or regulatory compliance costs.  Why?

Because they are truly ignorant?  If so they shouldn’t be anywhere near the economy.  Or they are devious?  And lying through their teeth to deceive the American public to get something they want?  Well, they may be ignorant.  But the smart money is on devious.  For the left has always wanted national health care.  But the people don’t.  When President Clinton tried it he lost the House in the 1994 midterm election.  And the left learned a lesson.  To get national health care they had to lie to the people.  Which is what Obamacare is.  A big lie.  It will do nothing President Obama said it would do.  All it will do is destroy the private health insurance industry by placing regulatory compliance costs on businesses and the private health insurance industry that will simply put the private health insurance business out of business.  As we are seeing.  Leaving uninsured people that the government must step in to insure.  And once they do they’ve got their national health care.  While giving the American people the middle finger.  “Say no to our national health care?” they’ll say.  “Well, [deleted expletive] you.”  They will say this figuratively, of course, with their actions.  For they will never let go of the lie that Obamacare is about lowering costs and insuring the uninsured.  And not the truth that it is nothing but a means to advance their agenda.

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Cost of Health Insurance

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 27th, 2013

Economics 101

Making Health Insurance a Fringe Benefit removed Market Forces from the Equation

The reason why health insurance is so expensive is because it is not insurance anymore.  It’s more of a welfare program.  Where other people pay.  Whereas insurance mitigates financial risk.  People pay a small premium to insure against a large financial loss.  They may pay $250/year to insure something that may cost $25,000 to replace.  For something they may own for 10 years.  Because they would rather spend $250 each year (for a total of $2,500 over those 10 years) than have to replace it by paying another $25,000 should something happen.  Insurance reduces the amount of money you can lose.  In this case the greatest financial loss is reduced from $25,000 down to $2,500.  This is insurance.

Health insurance used to be like this.  When we paid for it ourselves.  But things changed when it became an employee benefit.  Where we no longer saw the true cost of that insurance.  This happened during World War II.  As FDR put in wage caps.  Why?  With all the men in the military and wartime production through the roof there was a shortage of labor.  And the last thing FDR wanted on top of the inflation they were causing by printing so much money to pay for the war was wage inflation.  Hence the wage caps.  But the problem with wage caps is that employers could not entice the best workers to come work for them by offering them higher wages.  So to entice the best workers to come work for them and get around FDR’s wage caps employers began offering fringe benefits.

This is the cause of all our health care woes today.  Making health insurance a fringe benefit.  For it removed market forces from the equation.  People receiving the benefit had no idea what the benefit cost.  And did not care.  Which wasn’t a problem at first.  But then the Sixties came around.  And women stopped having as many babies.  Causing the population to start getting older.  Worse (from the perspective of paying for health insurance), people were beginning to live longer.  So when a person retired from a company they lived a long retirement.  So companies who offered these generous fringe benefits began to suffer under the cost of them.  Between pensions and health care costs retirees were costing some companies more than their active workers.  Because they were living so long into retirement.  (Just as these long retirements are straining Social Security and Medicare).  And modern medicine just keeps pulling them back from the brink of death.  Prolonging this crushing financial burden.

Health Insurance is more Expensive than it once was because it now Pays for Routine Medical Expenses

Compounding this problem is how health insurance is no longer insurance.  Instead of a small premium insuring against a large financial loss people expect health insurance to pay for everything.  And get righteously indignant whenever they have to pay anything out of pocket.  From a prescription co-pay.  To a small co-pay at a doctor’s office.  This is not paying a small premium to insure against a large financial loss.  This is demanding a free ride.  If health insurance was actually insurance it would look something like this:

Health Insurance Cost - Insurance

This assumes a health group with 100 participants.  Of this 100 five people suffer a serious accident in one year.  Incurring a large and unexpected hospital expense of $6,000 each.  While three people suffer a serious illness that same year.  Incurring a large and unexpected hospital expense of $4,500 each.  The total for these large and unexpected costs is $43,500.  If we divide this over the 100 members of the group that comes to an annual health insurance premium of $435 each.  Or $36.25/month.  Or $8.37/week.  Which isn’t much.  If you were one of those suffering a serious accident you didn’t have your personal finances wiped out by an unexpected $6,000 hospital bill.  Instead you only paid a manageable and budgeted $435 each year.  In other words, spending $435 saved $5,565.  Not a bad deal.  This is insurance.  Because it only paid for the unexpected.  Not our routine health care expenses that we should pay out of pocket.  If we add these routine expenses into the health insurance formula we can see how they increase the cost of health insurance.

Health Insurance Cost - Welfare

Assume each person consume $750 in routine medical costs.  For office visits.  Allergy shots.  Vaccinations for the children.  Flu shots.  Seeing the doctor when you have a cold.  Annual checkups.  Physicals.  Cancer screening.  Prescriptions.  Etc.  Those things that can be reasonably expected each year.  When our health insurance policies pay for these routine medical expenses note the large increase in the annual insurance policy premium.  Going from $435 to $1,185.  An increase of 172%.  Everyone will pay $1,185.  Whether they consume $750 in medical costs or not.  Also, of the three things health insurance pays for (serious accidents, serious illnesses and routine medical) routine medical is the biggest of the three.  Explaining why health insurance is now so much more expensive than it needs to be.

It was the Pension and Health care Costs of Retirees that Bankrupted General Motors

This is why it is better to pay out of pocket for these routine costs.  Because if you’re really healthy one year and never see the doctor you will not consume $750 in medical costs.  So if you normally pay these out of pocket but don’t you would only spend $435 that year for real health insurance.  Not the $1,185 that pays for everything.  Whether you use it or not.  This is where market forces come in.  Instead of paying for a costly doctor’s visit when you have a cold you may just buy some over the counter cold medicine from the drugstore.  This is how we behave when we pay for stuff.  But when you introduce a third party it alters our behavior.

“Whether you use it or not.”  When people can get something more for no extra money they are going to take it.  Like going for seconds and thirds at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It doesn’t cost anything more for the second and third plate.  In fact people will feel cheated if they don’t go for plates 2 and 3.  Because all-you-can-it is pretty expensive if you only eat one plate.  Because that one price pays for 2, 3, even 4 plates.  If you can eat that much.  It’s this mentality that causes people to go to the doctor when they have the sniffles.  So they can get ‘free’ antibiotics.  Because it doesn’t cost anything more.  Since their health insurance is already paying for it.

But it does cost more to those who are paying for it.  A lot more.  So much more that small business owners can’t afford to provide health insurance for their employees.  Because to do so would require that they greatly increase their selling price.  Which they can’t do and expect to stay in business.  Because the market sets the price.  Not them.  It’s up to them to figure out how to sell at a price the people will pay.  And if they raise it too high to pay for health insurance for their employees the people will stop buying from them.  Putting them out of business.  Even bigger businesses struggle with this.  For it was the pension and health care costs of retirees that bankrupted General Motors.  Which was one of those companies that started offering health insurance as a benefit during World War II.  Giving us all our health care woes today.

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Marine Insurance, General Average, Mesopotamia, Genoa, Middle Class, Capitalism, London Coffeehouses and Lloyd’s of London

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 3rd, 2012

History 101

It was in Genoa that Marine Insurance became a Standalone Industry

Risk management dates back to the dawn of civilization.  Perhaps the earliest device we used was fire.  Fire lit up the caves we moved into.  And scared the predators out.  As we transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming we gathered and stored food surpluses to help us through less bountiful times.  To avoid famine.  As artisans rose up and created a prosperous middle class we also created defensive military forces.  To protect that prosperous middle class from outsiders looking to plunder it.

As we put valuable cargoes on ships and sent them long distances over the water we encountered a new kind of risk.  The risk that these cargoes wouldn’t make it to their destinations.  So we created marine insurance.  Including something called ‘general average’.  An agreement where the several shippers shared the cost of any loss of cargo.  If they had to jettison some cargo overboard to save the rest of the cargo or to save the ship.  Some of the proceeds from the cargo they delivered paid for the cargo they didn’t deliver.  Some merchants who borrowed money to finance a shipment paid a little extra.  A risk ‘premium’.  Should the shipment not reach its destination the lender would forgive the loan.

So how long has marine insurance been around?  A long time.  Some of these practices were noted in the Code of Hammurabi (circa 1755 B.C.).  For ancient Mesopotamia was a trading civilization.  That shipped on the Tigris and Euphrates and their tributaries.  Out into the Arabian sea.  And beyond.  Following the coasts until advances in navigation and sail power took them farther from land.  The Greeks and Romans insured their valuable cargoes, too.  As did the Italian city-states that followed them.  Who ruled Mediterranean trade.  And it was in Genoa that marine insurance became a standalone industry.  No longer bundled with other contracts for an additional fee.

As the British Maritime Industry took off so did Lloyd’s of London

But the cargoes got larger.  And the voyages went farther.  Until they were crossing the great oceans.  Increasing the chances that this cargo wasn’t going to make it to its destination.  And when they didn’t the financial losses were larger than ever before.  Because the ships were larger than ever before.  So as the center of shipping moved from the Mediterranean to the ocean trade routes plied by the Europeans (Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands and England) the insurance industry followed.  And took the concept of risk management to new levels.

With trade came a prosperous middle class.  Where wealth was no longer the privilege of landholders.  Capitalism transferred that wealth to manufacturers, bankers, merchants, ship owners and, of course, insurers.  You didn’t have to own land anymore to be rich.  All you needed was skill, ability and drive.  It was a brave new world.  And these new capitalists gathered together in London coffeehouses to discuss business.  Including one owned by Edward Lloyd.  On Tower Street.  Where those particularly interested in shipping came to learn the latest in this industry.  And it was where shippers and merchants came to find underwriters to insure their ships and cargoes.

This was the birth of Lloyd’s of London.  And as the British maritime industry took off so did Lloyd’s of London.  As the British Empire spread across the globe international trade grew to new heights.  The Royal Navy protected the sea lanes for that trade.  The British Army protected their far-flung empire.  And Lloyd’s of London insured that valuable cargo.  It was a very symbiotic relationship.  All together they made the British Empire rich.  To show their appreciation of the Royal Navy making this possible Lloyd’s set up a fund to provide for those wounded in the service of their county following Lord Nelson’s victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar.  They continue to provide support for veterans today.  In short, Lloyd’s of London was the place to go to meet your global insurance needs.  From marine insurance they branched into providing ‘inland marine’ insurance needs.  Providing risk management to property beyond ships plying the world’s oceans. 

The Purpose of Insurance is to Let Life Go On after Unexpected and Catastrophic Events

Cuthbert Heath led Lloyd’s in the development of the non-marine insurance business.  Underwriting policies for among other things earthquake and hurricane insurance coverage.   And Lloyd’s helped to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.  With Heath ordering that they pay all of their policies in full irrespective of their policy terms.  They could do that because they were profitable.  Which is a good thing.  Insurers need to be profitable to pay these large claims without being forced out of business.  Which is why when the Titanic sunk in 1912 they were able to pay all policies in full.  And to continue on insuring the shippers and merchants that followed Titanic.  To allow life to proceed after these great tragedies.  And they would do it time and again.  Following 9/11.  And Hurricane Katrina.

This is the purpose of insurance.  Risk management.  So unexpected and catastrophic events don’t end life as we know it.  But, instead, it allows us to carry on.  Even after some of the worst disasters.  Because life must go on.  And that’s what insurance does.  Even people who rely on a particular body part for their livelihood have gone to Lloyd’s to buy insurance.  Perhaps the most famous being Betty Grable.  Who insured her legs for $1 million in 1940.  Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu has a lucrative endorsement with a shampoo company.  And insured his long hair for $1 million.  Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards insured his hands for $1.6 million.  America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) has an endorsement deal with a toothpaste company.  And they insured her smile for $10 million.  Even ‘the Boss’ Bruce Springsteen insured his voice for $6 million. 

People hate insurance companies.  Because they don’t understand how insurance works.  For they only know that they pay a lot in premiums and never receive anything in return.  But this is the way risk management is supposed to work.  And we need risk management.  We need insurance companies.  And we need insurance companies to be profitable.  Meaning that most of us will never see anything in return for all of our premium payments.  So these companies can pay for the large losses of the few who sadly do see something in return for all of their payments.  For insurance companies protect our wealth.  And earning potential.  So life can go on.  Whether we’re raising a family and planning for our children’s future.  Or taking precautions for some unforeseen accident to one of our body parts that may limit our future earning potential.

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Insurance and Risk Management

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 2nd, 2012

Economics 101

By collecting a Small Fee from Many Policy Holders Insurance Companies can Afford to Pay for the Large Losses of a Few

Insurance has one purpose.  To protect wealth.  People work hard accruing wealth.  Buying a house.  Cars.  College fund for the kids.  Retirement 401(k)s and IRAs.  It takes a long time to earn the money that lets us have these things.  And they take a constant stream of payments to sustain them.  And we are always at risk of losing them.  Something can interrupt that stream of payments to sustain them.  An accident or illness that prevents us from working.  Burying us in a stack of unexpected bills.  A tree could fall onto the house during a bad storm.  You could total your car while driving to work in a thick fog.  A wife could lose her husband leaving her to raise their children on her own.

These are very real risks that we must manage.  Because we need to protect our wealth.  We buy house and car insurance so we can keep or replace our houses and cars because we can’t afford to buy new ones should we lose the old ones.  We buy life insurance to provide for our families should we die.  We buy health insurance so an accident or disease doesn’t wipe out our savings, college fund and retirement investments.  Because we do do these things we can manage the risks in life.  So that something unexpected and incredibly expensive doesn’t take everything away that we worked so hard for.

Managing our risks allows us to live our lives.  To plan for the future.  A future that has a price tag.  A future that takes a lifetime of accumulating wealth to pay for.  And to protect the wealth that provides for our families and our retirements we buy insurance.  Groups of people join together and pay a small fee for an insurance policy that will protect a very large amount of wealth.  So if we have an unexpected and very expensive event in our lives our insurance will protect our wealth by paying for our losses.  By collecting a small fee from hundreds of thousands of policy holders insurance companies can afford to pay for the large losses of a few.  Allowing life to go on.  As best as it can following these  unexpected events.  So even in the worst of events families can keep their homes.  Keep their kids in their schools.  Protect their kids’ future by keeping their college fund intact.  Replace their property.  Allowing life to go on as close to what it was before the event.  All thanks to insurance.

Bad Insurance Risks have an Advantage over Insurance Companies due to Asymmetric Information and Adverse Selection

Insurance companies provide this valuable service.  But it isn’t easy.  Because insurance isn’t a science.  But statistical analysis.  And risk analysis.  Which is how they determine the cost of their insurance policies.  A critical part for the survival of insurance companies.  So they can continue to provide this valuable service.

Insurance companies are at a disadvantage because of asymmetric information.  Meaning their customers know more about how great a risk they are than the insurance company.  For example, reckless drivers don’t offer that information when someone is quoting a policy for them.  For they want a low price.  Not a high price that reckless drivers normally get charged.  This is a problem mostly with young drivers.  Older drivers have a driving record.  If it’s a safe record they get a low quote.  If the record includes many points and at-fault accidents they will get a high quote.  Young drivers, though, don’t have a driving record yet.  This is where the statistical analysis comes in.  On average young men drive more recklessly than young women.  Based on the statistical evidence.  So they charge young men higher rates than they charge young women.  Problem solved.  But this causes another problem.

Not all young women are good drivers.  But by charging young women lower rates some bad women drivers are getting a rate lower than their risk warrants.  Which means insurance companies will lose money insuring these drivers at rates below their risk level.  In fact, this will attract more high-risk drivers.  Thus increasing an insurance company’s risk exposure.  And as they pay out claims that exceed the premiums they collect they have to raise insurance rates for all women drivers.  Thus discouraging some good drivers from buying insurance because of the higher premiums.  Thus increasing the percentage of high-risk drivers.  Which forces the insurance companies to raise their premiums again to cover these higher losses.  We call this problem adverse selection.  Where pricing plans to manage risk ends up increasing risk.  One way around this is by group coverage.  Like in health insurance.  Where everyone at a company buys insurance in exchange for a lower group rate.  Including the high-risk people.  And the low-risk people.  Thus avoiding adverse selection.

Economic Growth is the Creation of Wealth and our Insurance Protects that Wealth

When is insurance not insurance?  When it is health insurance.  At least as it is today.  It still acts like insurance for the unexpected and catastrophic accident or illness.  But it is anything but insurance for most everything else.  The latest example in the media these days being birth control.  Which is neither an unexpected nor a catastrophic expense.  For there are few expenses that are more expected and more affordable than birth control.  Unlike, say, chemotherapy.  Or trauma care in the emergency room.  Both of which are unexpected.  And very, very expensive.

When insurance pays for everything for everybody it is no longer managing risk.  Insurance companies are no longer collecting a small fee from all policy holders to pay for the large losses of a few.  Instead they’re collecting a large fee from everyone to pay for the costs of everyone.  Or more precisely, they’re collecting a large fee from the employers who provide health insurance to their employees.  So the recipients of all those free health care goodies don’t see their costs.  Which is how they’ve been able to include everything but the kitchen sink in today’s health care insurance policies.  Causing the price of health insurance to soar.  Hurting families.  Businesses.  And the economy as a whole.

A healthy economy allocates scarce resources to where we use them most efficiently.  When we do we create the most goods possible from these scarce resources.  Making society as a whole better off.  By improving the standard of living for society as a whole.  But by turning health insurance into a welfare program it increases the cost of doing business.  Which puts downward pressures on wages.  Preventing real wages from keeping pace with the rise in consumer prices.  Leaving workers with less disposable income.  Which translates into weak economic growth.  And a stagnant or declining standard of living.

Economic growth is the creation of wealth.  And our insurance protects that wealth.  When we convert that insurance into welfare, though, we put our wealth at risk.  By putting greater pressures on that stream of payments to sustain our wealth.  Our future plans.  And our families.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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