My fellow Americans, I come before you today to call your attention to a grave and consequential dereliction of duty among our Congressmen and Congresswomen. The so-called Obamacare Supreme Court decision is expected to come down to us later today. Regardless of whether the Justices determine that the bill is constitutional or unconstitutional, in whole or in part, we should all realize that the Obamacare legislation is only the latest in a long series of attempts by the hard working men and women of Congress and the Executive Branch to fully and thoroughly destroy what had been the world’s greatest health care system. Meanwhile, thanks to the single-mindedness of this work, the good men and women of our government have completely ignored automobile insurance.
As something of a call to action, then, I herein propose a number of relatively simple steps that Congress can take in order to ruin, as quickly and completely as possible, a system that basically works.
1. Require citizens to purchase their auto insurance through their employer
Right now, car owners purchase their insurance directly from insurers. This creates a number of problems. Every 6 months, usually, or every month under some plans, car owners have to write a check to their auto insurance company. The funds come from their own bank accounts, and they therefore purchase an amount and inclusiveness of service that they can afford.
Better would be the following: have each employee contribute some portion of his or her own salary to auto insurance, say 33% of the total. The employer would then supply the remaining 67%. (These percentages are only used as an example; ideally the actual percentages would be determined by long, pointless negotiations between union bosses and corporate executives in some form that benefits both the bosses and the execs at the expense of the worker/union member.) The 67% portion paid by the employer can be covered in one of the following ways (not mutually exclusive): 1) the funds could be drawn from money that would otherwise be invested to grow the business and create more jobs or 2) the funds could be drawn against future salary increases on the part of the worker themselves. (Bonus: this will allow Democrats to complain that worker incomes have stagnated even as real compensation continues steady growth.)
Even better, since the employers would be negotiating with the automobile insurance companies rather than the car owners, contracts could be negotiated for the convenience, needs, and goals of the employer rather than the car owner. The car owner could therefore choose from 3 or 4 plans, each containing rafts of services and coverages undesired by the car owner. Still more, the car owner would never be free to switch to a different auto insurance company without changing jobs. This will help to keep the premiums high and quality and diversity of coverage options low.
Finally, consumer-based, rather than employer-based, purchase of auto insurance currently leads to yet another scourge: portability. On the off chance that the employee actually likes his or her auto insurance, car owners are currently perfectly able to keep their auto insurance even if they leave their job. How can we let this continue?
2. Auto mechanics should bill the insurance company directly, rather than the consumer
Currently (and disastrously), a person who gets in an accident must deal directly with their insurance company. This creates a host of problems. First, this requires the insurance company’s customer service to meet the needs of the consumer, rather than the automobile mechanic. The insurance company would have to be responsive and polite, lest the consumer choose a different insurer. They would likely have to have an easily navigable website in which consumers could quickly get all of their questions and concerns answered in a timely fashion.
Worse, the auto mechanics would also have to be responsive to the car owner, rather than the insurance company! The mechanic would likely have to post his or her prices and provide written estimates before any work was to be done! Consumers might even share information with one another about the cost and quality of the auto shop in question.
3. The government should force the inclusion of other services in the auto insurance plan
Did you know that flat tires are hardly ever covered by auto insurance? And you can forget about using your auto insurance to get your car washed. In the interests of environmental consciousness, in this day and age it strikes me as absolutely prehistoric that auto insurance does not cover the purchase of a road bike or bus pass. And of course, given that the back seat of a car is the classic scene of the post-date quickie, auto insurance plans should obviously cover various birth control options. Talk about a vehicle-related health issue.
4. Eliminate discrimination
The sexism of the automobile insurance industry is legendary. Just because women are less riskier drivers than men and because sports cars are more expensive than pick up trucks, premiums for male sports car drivers can be sky high. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of disadvantaged groups targeted by the auto insurance corporations. Teen drivers, for example. If we can send an 18 year old off to war, surely we don’t have to gouge them to insure their Corvette at the same time. (Although in truth teens should probably be allowed to remain on their parent’s auto insurance until the age of 30.) But it’s not just the young – the elderly are also targeted for discrimination.
And don’t get me started about past history. Did you know that auto insurances are currently allowed to charge higher premiums (or even deny them coverage!) just because a person has a pre-existing condition of poor driving or traffic citations?
The bottom line: we can’t let insurance companies get away with charging people based on how much it might cost the insurance company to insure people. Everyone should pay a fair share.
5. Expand tort opportunities
Has an auto mechanic ever been sued for malpractice? With all of the complaints you hear about people getting overcharged at an auto shop, or not being able to find a good mechanic, why hasn’t our legal system intervened on behalf of the people? I see these lawyers on TV – they are always telling me they are “for the people” and “fighting for the little guy”. Everyone knows that the best way to improve life for consumers is through law suits – law suits which are frequent and preferably very expensive. Until auto mechanics: 1) have to carry malpractice insurance themselves and 2) feel compelled to run every possible test on your vehicle and address even the remotest possible safety threat, the driver will never truly feel safe. Sure, that will make everything at least twice as expensive, but that hardly seems worth complaining about given the improvements in safety and legal employment opportunities that will accrue as a result.
6. Move toward a single-payer system
I can’t end this call for action without making the rather obvious point: the auto-insurance industry is currently plagued by competition and local control. Outside of a few stipulations of minimal coverage mandated by the state (gasp! and that vary by state), government has virtually no role in the interaction between a driver, his or her auto insurer, and his or her auto mechanic. Ideally, these transactions should all go through the federal government (except as modified by the proposal above: namely, remove the consumer completely from the process, and insert the consumer’s employer). The advantages of this are probably obvious, but at the risk of being pedantic, let me name at least some – 1) decreased responsivity to the needs of the consumer, 2) increased opportunities for waste and fraud, 3) creation of a new campaign issue for politicians that feel our pain, 4) further emasculation of market controls over price and quality, 5) certitude that the system will be glacially slow at responding to changes in technology and the wishes of the people, 6) increased necessity of auto insurance companies to make use of lobbyists in Washington, D.c., and 7) further opportunities for our foreign creditors to lend us money to support this necessary bureaucracy.
A Final Appeal
I have attempted to be clear about both the need for reform and the merits of the proposed plan. In my experience, though, even the most logical arguments will be met with resistance when the proposal is one that represents a major change. (I’m looking at you, knuckle-dragging, cave men conservatives.) But I’ve saved my trump card just for you. You see, I’ve secretly modeled my plan after the U.S. health care system. If you think my plan is crazy, then you’d be forced to say that Obamacare and its predecessors of the past 4 decades are crazy too. And you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?