Thursday, September 10, 2009

No one should have to choose between health insurance and booze

I've been doing some shopping on health insurance. I could get a policy that covers me, and I'm no spring chicken, for anywhere from $110 to $220 per month, depending on the deductible and co-payment. Most day to day health care is relatively cheap. It is really on the major problems, which get covered by the higher deductibles, that ought to cause people to worry. So why don't people have that?

A few, but very few, don't have that sort of basic policy because of finances. But it is rubbish to say that the X million of "uninsured" don't have it due to costs. That is a lie. Reason TV's satirical commercial used footage from interviews they did with people about why they don't health insurance. And many of the people, as you see here, were quite candid. They don't have health insurance because they prefer to spend the money on booze, clubbing, cigarettes, fancy jeans, etc.

How many of the uninsured smoke? I would bet it is a good percentage of them. Yet, if one smokes one pack per day that is enough money to buy major health insurance for any catastrophic illness. If they smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day, and many do, they could buy health insurance and still buy some neat things. They prefer to smoke. But then, why shouldn't they? The message that Obama is sending these people is this: "I don't care if you don't health insurance because you prefer to spend money on other things. I want to make sure that government steals from people who are more sensible, and give it to you so you can have insurance."

The advocates of state medical care claim that 46 million Americans are without health care. The census report they base that on admits that about 10 million of them are immigrants who are here illegally. Many "illegals" fear buying insurance of any kind because they don't want to be in the system. I'm not sure that the Left wants to argue that the US ought to provide health insurance to anyone in the country illegally. That brings us down to about 36 million Americans without health insurance. Of those an estimated 14 million are eligible for various government medical programs but simply have not signed up for them. They are, in essence, rejecting health coverage they are eligible for. That leaves something like 22 million.

But we also discover that almost 18 million of these people have annual incomes exceeding $50,000 a year, and half of them have incomes over $75,000. Budgeting for catastrophic health insurance is not difficult on an income like that. It is also true that many of the people without health insurance are young workers who could purchase health care but have decided it is not worth it. Their view is that they are young and healthy and unlikely to need it. So, they prefer the other things they can purchase instead. About half of the uninsured are under age 34, an age when insurance would be relatively inexpensive—yet they don't want it.

It should be noted that the US government also makes it hard to buy health insurance for many people. For instance, if you have insurance through an employer then the premiums are tax free. But if you own the policy and pay it yourself, as I would, you are taxed on that money. Tying insurance to specific jobs was pushed by the unions. But it hurts workers. Lose your job and lose your insurance. You have keep starting over again. That's stupid. Workers should be able to keep their policies when they change jobs but federal law discourages that.

Instead of trying to have government involved in the insurance business shouldn't we start with the reforms that get government roadblocks to health insurance removed?