Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's always in the fine print.

Corporations! Posters

In conservative health care mythology, an educated health consumer chooses the best policy for his or her personal situation, and if the insurance company does something disagreeable, the consumer simply takes her business to another company--punishing bad the corporate behavior and rewarding the good. This way, so the theory goes, the insurance companies are always improving in a survival-of-the-fittest competition for the American consumer.

But the "free market" fairy tale ignores some major problems. Here are just two.

First, choosing a health insurance policy is not the same thing as shopping for consumer goods. Whether you're shopping around for a new TV or trying on different shirts, you can make informed comparisons and pretty much know what you're going to get when you make your purchase. With a health insurance policy, at best you have a general idea of the way your policy works. But the nuances--which have a way of jumping up and biting you--are coded in lawyer-speak and hidden in an "explanation of benefits" booklet that changes every year. Or they're in the fine print in one of the many documents you signed to buy your policy in the first place.

Also, chances are that when you learn some sordid detail of your policy, it will be at a time when you or a loved one is sick or in a lot of pain and you are under stress. You may be under financial stress too from the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles you've already paid and maybe from being out of work. You can't exactly jump into a new policy at this point. And you're in a pretty weak position to argue with the company you're stuck with. You are anything but a highly-mobile, educated consumer in a free market. You are caught in a scheme to enrich few at the expense of many.

These are just two reasons why it makes no sense for coverage of our medical expenses to be left up to organizations that exist primarily to increase their own quarterly profits and shareholder value.


Chris said...

(People use loaded words to argue for stuff.)SOCIALIZED healthcare! In this case it used to be COMMUNIST but they've replaced it with SOCIALIST. These words are synonymous with FOREIGN countries who are our ENEMIES who are IMMIGRANTING through our BORDERS from MEXICO and other MUSLIM countries like where B. HUSSEIN OBAMA was born because he's not a US CITIZEN.

capitalized words = loaded trigger rally points

The American spirit is MAVERICKY and to fall into the same healthcare line with the rest of the progressive world would make us dandy boys.

Dave said...

It's especially true that throughout American history conservatives have tried to paint any movement for progressive reform as "foreign." In the late 1800s and early 1900s the labor movement was often criticized as somehow German in character or part of a secret German plot. Later, it was supposedly a Russian thing. In 2004, there were the bizarre claims that John Kerry was "too French" to be president. In 2008, Sarah Palin called her supporters "real Americans," implying that everyone who opposed her was somehow foreign. And now there is the weird "birther" movement that claims President Obama himself is not really an American.

Chris said...

I believe it has something to do with our puritanical separatist/cultish/insider-outsider ways. It's inherant in the American volksgeist.