Sunday, May 18, 2008

Didn't Need no Welfare State

As more people get spat out of the "health insurance" system, we will get to appreciate more and more what life is like in developing and undeveloped countries, where a few very wealthy people have decent lives and a large number of struggling workers, educated or not, live as long as their luck holds out. It's not that the facilities and skilled providers aren't there. It's that the rank and file should not be encouraged to live beyond their means.

In our case, we earn enough to live a little bit comfortably until we try to pay for that hideously flawed instrument, health insurance. Insurance that provides basically nothing still busts our budget, let alone leaving us enough to put into a bullshit "medical savings account" to cover the massive deductible. Given the choice of draining our savings to pay a premium we probably wouldn't be able to maintain if one of us got sick, or depleting them later to pay down a debt for actual services received, I know what I choose. But either way we end up on the rocks. The financial aspect dumps another completely separate challenge on top of any medical considerations.

You can find all kinds of debate about what drives medical costs up. It seems to be malpractice premiums, drug costs and inflation generated by the insurance system itself.

Inflation from insurance takes two forms. One part stems from providers inflating their prices to cover the amount the insurance companies are going to chisel them down. The other part stems from the extra staff needed to keep track of the volley of paperwork back and forth between the service provider and the insurance company, and both those entities and the patient. The doctors and insurance companies have paid staff to play this game. The patients have to do it as amateurs in their spare time.

I guess we all need to come to terms with a more natural model of life and death, in which sickness and injury are once again as serious as they used to be in the primordial past. Forget what's technically possible. If no one can afford to pay for those medical miracles, they might as well not exist. As costs spiral upward, procedures that we've come to view as routine become unreachable, unimaginable miracles to the people cut off from them by the high financial fences of the invisible gated communities in our society.

You have no value as an individual. You only have value if you get yourself employed by someone willing to pay for your upkeep, or you generate enough revenue through your own enterprises, or you sign on to do your country's dirty and dangerous work in theaters of war around the world. What might you have to trade for that? Think carefully, because either way it will cost you your life.

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