Thursday, October 01, 2009
On The Need For Universal Healthcare
..or the lack of such a need...
Here's an interesting article, by a breast-cancer specialist and cosmetic surgeon from California, on her experiences with people who chose not to have health insurance (and were occasionally quite vehement about it).
Although she doesn't connect all the dots, her point is unmistakable: that many people would rather pay for any number of luxuries and not pay for health insurance. They knew it was available -- and sometimes were given financial incentives to get it -- but simply didn't want it.
This is important, because we've been encouraged to think of people without health insurance as needing it desperately. Such people, of course, should be helped, and I don't know of anyone who would argue the point.
(A different question is who should help them. Should the federal government help them, for example, thereby ensuring that taxpayers everywhere must support the sick poor everywhere? Should it be done at the state level instead? Should doctors be encouraged to work pro bono for patients that need it, and get tax credits in return?)
But what of people who have consciously chosen not to get health insurance? Should they be required to have health insurance for their own good, and should federal tax money be used to pay for it? (Keep in mind that they're not going to be happy about this; among other issues, their taxes will go up too.)
I don't think so. Health insurance, like all insurance, is a gamble; I'll pay $250 per month, say, for insurance against a particular type of disaster. I'm gambling that the disaster will happen, and that if I didn't have insurance, I would have had to pay more than what my $250/month adds up to by then. (The insurance company, of course, is counting on the opposite -- that people will pay for insurance policies and never have to collect on them. Averaged over all their clients, the insurance companies win, because they can calculate what kind of insurable events happen in a given population, and adjust their rates accordingly. That's not evil, by the way; that's the cost of doing business.)
But what of a person who doesn't expect any kind of medical problem, and would much rather use that $250/month to stuff a mattress, or pay into a 401K, or make payments on a sports car that they can enjoy right now? I think that's their decision, and we should respect it, whether or not we'd make the same decision.
Read the whole thing. It's interesting to hear a counterpoint to the uninsured sob-stories.