Cross-posted from State House Call.
By John Goodman
Here we are at the eleventh hour, about to enact Obama/Baucus/Kennedy/Waxman Care and no one other than the insurance industry executives seems to be aware of how genuinely foolish this reform is likely to be.
At the top of my list of foolish things is the idea that no one should ever have to pay the real cost of his own health insurance. The most popular alternative is having everyone pay the same premium although, as previously reported at this site, community-rated premiums are not even good for sick people.
We do not as a rule find this attitude in the market for other important goods. For example, most of us think people should pay the market price for the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the house they live in. We also don’t seem to have a problem with people paying market prices for life insurance or disability insurance.
So what’s so different about health care? There is always the possibility that someone cannot afford to pay an actuarially fair premium. But there are also people who cannot afford to pay for food, clothing and shelter. We solve these problems through public and private programs to help people out. No one is seriously proposing to socialize the food, clothing and housing industries. And if people can’t afford — or otherwise neglect — to buy life or disability insurance, we have programs to deal with the sympathetic cases there as well.