This is disturbing…

This video is disturbing on several levels. But I am bothered most by the response of the audience to Sen. Coburn’s comments about how we should help this lady by individually offering our neighborly services. Notice the applause he gets when he says this. This is a women who is facing either financial ruin or a life of suffering while her husband slowly dies. And she had insurance! How can you convince a nation to take this issue seriously when people are like this?

I get so tired hearing how government is not the solution. It isn’t the solution to everything, but is the only solution for some things. Medical expenses are not “fairly divided” among our citizens. Medical problems that lead to financially crushing burdens do not happen only to people of poor character or to those who deserve what they get. We have one of two choices: we can figure out how to fairly spread the cost of health care among our citizens or we can just look the other way until something happens to us. This does not mean we stop debate and pass whatever proposed legislation the Democrats happen to have on the table. But we need to have true debate. The “government is not the answer” argument is certainly an improvement over yelling and screaming, but is still mind numbingly inane. I have to wonder how any elected government official could ever say this. If government is not the only possible solution to the health care crisis, then what is?

How about capitalism? Nope, don’t think so. It is in Aetna’s and Blue Cross/Blue Shields interest to make a profit. They can only do so if they can get a pool of people to give them more money than they pay out in settlements. According to standard free market dogma, if insurance companies charge too much for premiums then they lose customers. If we let the market work, the argument goes, then premiums will fall (or rise)  to the price people are willing to pay. Sounds fair. But insurance is not like buying a TV. We are buying a service for which we do not want but for which we cannot afford to ignore. Because of the high potential (and eventually, inevitable) cost of medical care we have to buy insurance. In economics, this is referred to as inelastic demand. We desire insurance no matter what the cost is. Standard fee market theory falls apart at this point. If a company produces a product that has an inelastic demand, they can charge far more for the product than they could in a situation with elastic demand (where people will only buy the product if the price is low enough.) Therefore the big insurance companies have all the power to charge more for “potentially” sick people, but also for denying coverage for those who are already insured but are facing high medical costs.

In a situation like this, where we do not want close friends and relatives dying on the street for want of health care, the only solution is government intervention. To say “government is the solution” is not only idiotic, it is also morally wrong.


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