13 March 2007

Des Moines Register solid

Thanks to Over My Med Body! for this, which I'd missed, being as doped up on pain killers as I was brave enough to be.

(They warn you that the narcotic depresses respiration, and so you might die if you take too much. The advice nurses get pretty exercised about it. Somehow I'm thinking that I was at more risk from the excess tylenol in the four percocets I took in two hours than from the oxycodone, but whatever. I'm on the mend now.)

The Des Moines Register referred to a story they'd evidently told before, of a couple who bought AARP-sanctioned insurance for $700 a month, then found themselves owing $200,000 after one of them came down with cancer. The
Register gets it exactly right:
Private is not better than public when it comes to health insurance.

Private health-insurance companies spend a greater percentage of dollars on administrative costs than government programs such as Medicare. Private companies also use health dollars to pay outrageous CEO salaries. UnitedHealth Group Inc. paid a former CEO $8 million a year. He also had unrealized gains on company stock options totaling nearly $1.6 billion.

Try finding a government worker with a personal jet.
And yet the commenters don't get it — many of them, anyway.

One guy notes that Americans would rather pay their cell phone bills than health insurance. Well — yeah. My cell phone offers a palpable daily benefit — and I know I'm getting a decent deal. For most people most of the time, health insurance offers a theoretical benefit and we know we're getting ripped off. Of course we'd rather pay our cell phone bills. And if we're young, we typically make that calculated choice that we'll be all right, and we forgo the health insurance and buy a cell phone plan instead.

Sure it's stupid. But it's a stupidity engendered not only by human nature but by a system that exacerbates the problem, by rewarding the worst of human nature and giving a shoulder shrug to the best.

Blaming human nature under those circumstances is short-sighted.

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