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Yesterday was a strange day.  I woke up with a running nose and some feelings of a mild allergy.  Not that I know much about allergies because I haven’t had much experience with them.  But I knew it wasn’t a cold (which I’ve had plenty of experience with).  And it wasn’t just one of those morning things because it persisted all day.  I kept thinking it must be something in the air – but what could it be this time of year?  Today I woke up and it hit me.  Saturday night (the night before I experienced the allergies) I had a large bowl of Pad Thai (a Thai noodle dish with peanuts in it) and I’m slightly allergic to peanuts.  I didn’t recognize it because I’ve never had that kind of a reaction the following day.  I usually just notice some immediate sneezing as well as mild skin reactions. Maybe my diagnosis is off but given that I don’t have any of the symptoms today it’s the best I can come up with.

Which leads me back to the subject of healthcare.  I read an article in the latest Barron’s about a guy named David Goldhill who penned a provocative article on healthcare in September’s Atlantic magazine.  It’s provocative because David is a businessman and card carrying, check writing Democrat and his proposal is one previously championed by Republicans.  You’ll have to read the article – or at least a review – to get more information but I will tell you his prescription.  He advocates health savings accounts because they put control back in the hands of consumers and take it away from the insurance companies.  It doesn’t eliminate health insurance; it simply relegates it to its original function, namely providing insurance against major medical events.  I like it but I doubt it will take root because just about every vested interest will fight it.  Insurance companies will fight it because it diminishes their role and will force them to shrink.  Medical device and pharmaceutical companies will fight it because it’s harder to sell expensive procedures and treatments when the consumer is paying the bill.  And liberal Democrats will fight it because it doesn’t bring them closer to their cherished goal of government run healthcare.

So what do allergies and the current healthcare debate have in common?  Simply that I don’t want someone to tell me how to treat my allergies – or any other health issue I might have.  I want to be able to choose between natural remedies, drugs, or simply modifiying my diet.  I don’t trust governments or insurance companies to make the right decision for me.  As I’ve said before I’m not ideologically opposed to government run healthcare – my experience is that they do just as well as the insurance companies.  I just don’t see how adding a government option on top of the current mess gets us any further ahead.  And I don’t understand how we can get costs down without consumers being responsible for the bill (major accidents and illnesses being covered by insurance).  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

One argument made for government run healthcare is that the average consumer is not capable of making the right decision when it comes to his/her own health.  But that’s an education problem that can be addressed by the government without controlling healthcare resources.  Maybe the government should get involved by funding community health centers and other organizations that promote health and wellness.  That will do more to reduce overall healthcare costs than any other initiative I can think of.  And, for those of us who feel we understand what we need to do to stay healthy but are sometimes reluctant to spend after tax dollars on the our own health, legislate before tax health care savings accounts.  But don’t tell me how to use the funds!  Anything that has anything remotely to do with health – doctors’ visits, homeopathic remedies, health club memberships, smoking cessation programs, massages, etc. – should be allowed.  Talk about driving innovation in healthcare and improving outcomes!  I know, I’m dreaming.  But, hey, we have a black president in the White House so anything is possible.  Maybe he’ll have a healthcare dream himself…