Overheard in the Store: Old People

sound harsh, but I think this outside-the-box thinking is just what we need. With all the talk about health care recently, I’m surprised that no one has challenged the crazy idea that hospitals should treat people who can’t pay. Maybe forced euthanizing is a little too much, but  at the very least, in our free market nation, the home of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice” in store windows, we should be able to have “No Cash, No Insurance, No Live” on our hospital doors.

Right now, if someone without cash or insurance has a farm accident and rushes to an Emergency Room, those free market-haters will treat his condition and stabilize him and bill the government. Is Dr Leon Trotsky staffing these places?

In a perfect world, doctors would look at this free-loader and just point to the sign: “No Cash, No Insurance, No Live.”

Now, this system does have its drawbacks. Say you did have cash and insurance, but were unconscious and lost your credit and insurance cards to the combine that took off your leg. Well the hospital would have to let you die. No more medical bailouts, people. 

But not even the free marketers in Congress are proposing a “No Cash, No Insurance, No Live” plan. On the one hand, there could be the issue of people dying because of the scenario above, and on the other hand, there is the question of where people would bleed to death. On the sidewalk right outside the hospital (which could really traumatize the paying customers)? Or do  you have a special room for them to spend their last minutes? And who pays for that room?! The taxpayer?!

The reason that even the free marketers can’t use free market principles on medical care is that medical care falls outside of the free market. It is the only service that people need to live. And it is the only service that takes a certain scale to administer properly. Insurance companies themselves know this, which is why they’re one of only two organizations exempt from monopoly laws. Insurance needs government protection to make sure their pool of customers is large enough to be efficient, but they don’t want one big pool run by a single corporation or the government, because then they’d have to look elsewhere for a job. 

And so we find ourselves in that very American of scenarios: quasi-capitalism-meets-government-regulation-meets-government-involvement-meets-government-protection-of-private-companies. Not even our banking industry has reached the stratospheric heights of lunacy health care has achieved.

Even when I, Joe T-Shirt Salesman, sit back and count the ways I pay for this country‘s medical system, this year will come out to 13: there will be payments for to insurance premiums, the pharmacy, my general health doctor, a specializing doctor, a surgery center where the specializing doctor works, the anesthesiologist who comes to the surgery center, Medicare withholding, and Medicaid Withholding. Then a portion of my state taxes pay for county hospitals, a portion of my federal taxes subsidize pharmaceuticals, a portion of my federal taxes subsidize hospitals. And now, a portion of my federal taxes will go toward helping others to buy private insurance policies, and a portion of my taxes will help cover general practice visits.   

This year I will spend more on health care then I will spend on groceries, and those are just the ways I can calculate. 

I supported President Obama’s plan for a public option in 2009 (as well as Braley, Boswell, and Loebsack who were behind a public option) because this issue needs  a drastic solution. The Senate killed the public option. And so we’re not inside a new socialist paradigm, or even a drastically altered health care world, instead we’ve just made our complicated system a little more complex. Prolonging the day this gets so bad someone actually has to do something about it.    - Mike