This is a post about Obamacare, but I think it needs to start with my daughter’s great insight about our neighborhood grocery store, which recently sold out to a so-called “high-end chain.” So far, the only thing high about the store under its new ownership it is the prices its charging. It’s selling the same meats Wal-Mart sells (not that there’s anything wrong with that), except that it’s promoting them as boutique specialty meats and pricing them accordingly (and there’s a lot wrong with that). When the neighborhood moms get together, they don’t have a lot of nice things to say about the newly configured market.
I decided to ask my teenage daughter what her peers in the neighborhood had to say about the new store at the same oldlocation. Her answer, which I’m quoting verbatim, was marvelous, and should be read by every Leftist in America:
It’s okay. I like the soups. But otherwise, it’s really expensive. Now that my friends and I are all driving, if we want food, we either go to a restaurant where we can totally order what we want, or we go to Safeway, which is a lot cheaper. Basically, the local market is the kind of place you go when you’re spending other people’s money — like yours, Mom.
Could there be a more perfect statement of the problems that arise from government handouts?
Her little statement resonated especially strongly with me today, because of a discussion I had with a pro-Obamacare person this morning. What sparked the discussion was the fact that both Forbesand the New York Times had Obamacare offerings. Forbe’s offering is an article Steve Moore wrote about the false statements Obama made in a speech claiming that Obamacare was a success. The New York Times offering is a 35-minute-long video following the healthcare travails of a diabetic man in Kentucky, both before and after Obamacare went into effect.
Moore’s article is pretty self-explanatory. He says that Obamacare is a “success” only because of the vast numbers of people who have been shifted to Medicaid. Yes, more people are insured, but a lot of people lost insurance that made them happy and ended up with insurance that cost more, whether in terms of premium increases or deductible increases.
The NYT video requires little more analysis. The video follows a 61-year-old man who is presented in a complete information vacuum. That in itself is a strong reminder that anecdote is not data. We know that he’s got diabetes, congestive heart failure, and failing kidneys. We know that his diabetes has caused hemorrhaging in his eyes that, if left untreated, will cause him to go blind. And we know that he pays a lot of money every month for his medicine. We also know that he’s apparently a hard worker.
And that’s all we know. For example, at the ophthalmologist’s office, we know that, after telling the man that it will cost $1,700 to treat the hemorrhage in his eyes, the billing manager tells him that the office will set up a payment plan for him, even if it’s only $5 a month, because his vision is at issue and they will make sure he’s treated. He says “okay,” and that’s the last we hear on the subject.
The pro-Obamacare person to whom I spoke summed this up as “He’s going blind because he can’t get treated.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. “I didn’t hear that he couldn’t get treated. I heard that the doctor’s office would do anything it could to work out an affordable payment plan for him. And then the video abandoned that line of the story. Did I miss something?”
Well, no, it turns out that I didn’t miss anything. The pro-Obamacare person finally conceded that he just assumed that nothing came of the proposed laser treatment despite the offer of a humane payment plan. I told him that I, on the other hand, assumed nothing at all, which is the correct way to interpret incomplete data. (Okay, I said that last clause — about the correct way to interpret data — silently in my mind, because you can’t ever accuse a pro-ACA person of making up facts and conclusions. They get tetchy about that.)
Here another thing we don’t know: We don’t know this pathetic old man spent a large part of his money on drink, drugs, or other self-destructive or wasteful practices during his healthy years. I’ve written before about the person I know who lives amongst the poor. My friend is the only one in the neighborhood without a parole officer. Most of the neighbors are current or former alcoholics, heroin addicts, or meth addicts. All are chronic stoners. These little habits matter, both in terms of their current health and their current finances. It’s heartless of me, but I honestly don’t think that I should be called upon to pay for people who used their money to destroy their health. Perhaps the guy in the NYT video is a model citizen who is just profoundly unlucky . . . but perhaps he isn’t.
The video had a surprise ending which is that, despite the fact that the man couldn’t afford his medicines (and he had a lot of them) and was in failing health, he nelected not to get Obamacare. Although Obamacare would have gotten him a 50% reduction in monthly premiums, but the deductible was so high he decided upon an entire different choice: To wait until his kidneys failed because, once he started dialysis, Medicaid would pay (or do I mean Medicare? I always get them confused.).
The way I saw it, the video supported several of my belief systems: First, for the very poor, insurance is not always seen as the best option. In the post I linked to above, I wrote this:
I was speaking to my friend just yesterday about her healthcare and she offered a very interesting observation: She and her husband, the only middle class people in a sea of poverty, are the only people she knows, amongst both friends and acquaintances, who have signed up for Obamacare. The others have no interest in getting health insurance. Even with a subsidy, they don’t want to pay a monthly bill for health insurance. Even a subsidized rate is too onerous when they can get all the free health care they need just by showing up at the local emergency room. Additionally, the ER docs are usually better than any doc who’s willing to belong to whatever plan they can afford. Nor are these people worried about the penalties for refusing to buy Obamacare, since none of them pay taxes.
Second, despite my pro-Obamacare friend’s insistence that insurance is more affordable thanks to subsidies, that’s simply not true. Even people with subsidies can find that the increased deductibles make the subsidized premiums too expensive. And again, so many of those who were happily insured were suddenly faced, not just with higher deductibles, but with much higher premiums to help pay for those whom they now subsidize.
And now, this:
As the article says, eventually they run out of other people’s appropriated money… then it becomes necessary to simply steal it.
Health insurance was cheaper when those who profit from selling it had no obligation to sell it to those more likely to need it, and were allowed to drop coverage on anyone who turned into such a financial liability.
That was all fairly routine, prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. So, who routinely picked up the costs of the uninsured back then?
@Greg: But, Greg. It’s supposed to be cheaper now.