By Lynn Paris
THIS IS A RESPONSE TO JOSEPH PHILLIPS' COLUMN, WHICH SHOULD BE READ FIRST.
Doing “Good” With Health Care: A Rebuttal
You just don’t get it, Joseph! Your friend Paul should pat himself on the back. Here’s why. He’s committed to one of our basic rights: accessible, affordable health care. Now I know it’s not as basic as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (otherwise known as the right to privacy and/or property; I’ve never been quite sure which definition you prefer). To me it’s analogous to free public education, without which we’d hardly qualify as a civilized nation. Clearly, you’ve never been forced to deal with the lack of either public education or health insurance, so you only see the issue through the prism of your politically conservative viewpoint; let everyone make their own choices and suffer the consequences.
Except we can’t. I’m not talking about the 9 million who choose to forego health insurance in favor of making the monthly mortgage payment, or perhaps because they’d rather buy a new car, or take a yearly vacation. That’s their choice, and they are free to make it, as long as their decision doesn’t wind up costing me money when they come down with a catastrophic illness. I’m talking about the other 37 million of us who can’t GET health insurance, or if we can, the price for it is prohibitive. Imagine, if you will, your reaction if you were one of 37 million parents who could not get public education for your children, if education was out there and available, but the cost for it was simply too high for you to be able to provide it. Would you choose to deprive them of their home so they could go to school? Should you have to make that choice?
By providing group health insurance for his employees Paul is providing them a way to have affordable health care. In my opinion, he has made a very Christian choice, preferring to help his employees rather than making a larger profit for himself. I don’t think he should mandate it; we should preserve freedom of choice. And I certainly don’t think he should give them the money instead; that’s his freedom of choice. But he should be applauded for offering them something of tremendous value; they can get health insurance without having to go through underwriting. Underwriting is another word for excluding everyone who has what is known as a pre-existing condition. When you are included in a group policy, you automatically get covered at an affordable rate regardless of sex, age, or pre-existing conditions.
Do you know what a pre-existing condition is? You might think it’s something like cancer or diabetes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Anything you ever went to see a doctor about is a pre-existing condition. If you complained of headaches twelve years ago, it’s a pre-existing condition. If you had pain in your lower back eight years ago, it’s a pre-existing condition. It’s also the same with high blood pressure, or high cholesterol even if they’re being controlled perfectly by medication. So, if you somehow manage to acquire health insurance on your own, at an exorbitant rate, any visit to the doctor to check your blood pressure or cholesterol level, as well as the pills that manage both conditions, are not covered by your insurance because you already had the condition. It adds up. I, for one, did not choose to pay the $900 a month premium I was quoted for individual health insurance. I do have catastrophic insurance, as you recommend, which costs me $276 per month. It doesn’t cover the cost of check-ups or preventative medicine, however, which if practiced diligently would lower the cost of EVERYONE’S health insurance. Nor does it cover my monthly prescriptions, which total another $400. That’s a guaranteed $676 per month, cheaper than the aforementioned premium, but more than the cost of the payments on our two cars. And exactly what choice do I have?
Of course, I suppose I could choose to avail myself of one of the free clinics in town. I’m not sure if my income would disqualify me on the spot, but let’s say they don’t ask. I choose not to do that because it doesn’t seem fair to me. There are just too many people who are truly indigent, or living at the poverty level who cannot exist without those clinics. And, somebody else’s money (like our tax dollars, for instance) must be paying for the free clinics, mustn’t it? Is that liberal, or is it humanitarian?
According to Article 25 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, “ Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
It turns out that’s a lot easier to achieve in third world countries. In Sudan it takes about $1 a day and some mosquito netting to meet that need. It gets a whole lot trickier in the western world, where our standard of living is so outrageously high. Still, it seems as though this great nation should be able to meet that basic human right.
The way to do it isn’t necessarily through universal health care, although at this point I’d be willing to give it a shot. Based on the abysmal state of health care in this country now I doubt it could be any worse. Still, the way to do it is probably closer to what you wrote; allow people to shop for the best prices tailored to their needs, “removing government restrictions that would allow consumers to purchase their own policies that are not connected to their jobs.”
But you left out the most critical point; it must be made illegal for insurance companies to treat individuals any differently from the way they treat groups. In other words, eliminate price discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Then you’d see some real scrambling. You’d have what you want—no big government spending, a free market capitalistic competition, with the most innovative, competitive, best value companies winning. And I’d have what I want—a choice.
me your opinions at LParis@netlistings.com