Monday, October 12, 2009

The Best Possible Argument For Government Health Care

The insurance industry pushes back. Not unexpected of course but they're clearly the authors of their own doom in this. Their point is a simple one and it articulates precisely why for profit insurance doesn't work. It comes down to this: If insurance companies cannot deny coverage to high risk customers, also known as very sick people, then they'll have to raise your premiums because they can't possibly be expected to cut into their profit margins.

We sell insurance companies our risk, period. We don't buy access to health care. So when the price of our risk gets too high they have every reason to limit their exposure to our risk. That's how market driven insurance works. The system we have now isn't broken, it works exactly like it should because it is motivated by profit for shareholders and not levels of care for sick people. If you like profits more than you like sick people being taken care of then you should oppose reform.

The reason health insurance is different from every other kind of insurance is that when it comes to our health there is no fixed cost of replacement. The worst thing that can possibly happen to your car insurance company is that they will have to replace your car and we know pretty much how much that costs. Same for your home insurance company springing for a new roof. Their risk exposure is bracketed so they can set premiums relative to known costs.

Health care though? Who knows what the level of risk might be. I've been to the doctor once this decade but if I get hit by a bus tomorrow I might run up God only knows how much in medical bills. The sky is literally the limit and insurance companies can't both insure you to the stratosphere AND make money so they drop people and limit coverage whenever they can.
Its what markets do.

If you like the idea of calling 911 to summon the police or fire department then you agree with me in principle that universal, or "socialized" healthcare, is the best option. We may disagree about how to get there but unless you've got a private security firm protecting your life and property you can't really argue the point on substance. You can't.

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