The Story Anti-Obamacare Advocates Face
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably very happy about how the Supreme Court hearings last week went. Justice Kennedy asked very sharp and pointed questions that seem to indicate he would vote against the individual mandate and perhaps put the entire law in jeopardy. That’s something anyone who is concerned about liberty should be pleased about.
But it’s important to see the stories that the other side will bring up in favor of it. Stories such as Violet McManus’:
When health care reform passed Congress more than two years ago, Julie Walters yelled for her husband to come into the living room where she was watching the vote live on television.
“I was so happy,” Walters remembers. “I yelled for Matt. I said, ‘Do you know what this means? Do you know what this means?’”
The historic vote meant their 18-month-old daughter, Violet McManus, would be able to keep her health insurance. Without health care reform, she would have gotten kicked off her parents’ insurance, perhaps as early as her 5th birthday, because her care is so expensive.
Violet McManus was born healthy, but when she was 11 months old her parents woke up in the middle of the night in their Novato, California, home to find her having a seizure.
“She was completely blue in her crib and shaking,” Walters remembers.
It was to be the first of hundreds of seizures — sometimes thirty in one day.
Violet has been hospitalized about six times and each hospitalization cost more than $50,000.
She’s now on two drugs to control the seizures and carries oxygen with her wherever she goes because she stops breathing when she has her seizures. She needs speech therapy and frequent doctor’s visits.
Matt McManus, Violet’s father, gets health insurance through his work as a video game designer. Before health care reform, there was a $5 million lifetime limit on Violet’s insurance policy. Violet is now 3 and her parents calculate she could hit that cap by her 5th birthday, and almost certainly by her 10th.
Health care reform made lifetime limits illegal — which is why Violet’s family breathed easier when it passed — but now her parents are worried the Supreme Court could restore the limits and Violet would lose her insurance. Walters has been so passionate about health care reform she contacted the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and MomsRising.org to advocate for the law.
What do you tell Violet’s parents? What do you tell people whose child’s life basically depends on this law? It’s a very difficult subject, but it’s something that we as libertarians need to consider.
There are a few things I would suggest to say to Violet’s parents. Some of them are very bad, and I suggest you stay away from them, though they can work.
One thing I would ask is, “Would you really want to jack up the price of health insurance for everyone else? What about those struggling to make their payments for their own children? You’re going to make them pay more just for you?” But that won’t work. Parents will do anything to save their child, even if it meant taking money from others. That’s just how parenthood works.
But looking at Violet’s case, the intense difficulties she has to live through, I think there’s a much harder, more pertinent question to ask: Why would you put your child through this?
What I am saying is incredibly cruel, and I do not recommend it. You are going to look like a cold-blooded douche if you say it. But it’s a very valid consideration: if your child is going to be in such pain for her life, why would you prolong it? Why would you continue to put your child through procedures that, while keeping her alive, do not actually alleviate her pain and distress? When it all balances out, as a parent, you would actually be doing more harm to your child if…I can’t even bare to write it. But think about it.
In America, we have a preoccupation with trying to beat death as long as possible. Europeans are much more fatalistic, and thus do not try to consume nearly as much healthcare as we do. Personally, I think the Europeans have it right. We all die. Every living organism eventually stops living. Prolonging the suffering just doesn’t make sense to me. While I would be against the “death panels,” if they truly existed, that would only be because of government bureaucrats running your life, not because someone would talk to you about not going on anymore.
Again, I wouldn’t suggest any of the above. But I would suggest to Violet’s parents is something of the following: “Obamacare will not work. It will make everything more expensive. Think you pay a lot for Violet’s care now? Just think when your insurance company will have to cover everybody and still expect to make a profit. But there’s another way. We can both lower the cost of healthcare for everyone and give you more control. And it involves firing the insurance companies.”
You might be thinking I’m off my rocker. How libertarian can I be if I’m saying we need to fire insurance companies? Very much, actually. You see, we’re all for the free market, here, but insurance companies are actually against the free market. Why? Well, one of the cornerstones of a free market is the price system, a transparent, non-coerced set of datapoints that tell us what is needed, what isn’t needed, and who wants what. However, insurance companies, by putting themselves between the patients and the doctors, create a third-party payer problem, which is the same thing we usually gripe about when the government starts buying things for people. What happens is that prices skyrocket, since the consumer isn’t paying attention, and is only paying a tiny bit of the actual price, which is distributed among a lot of payers.
Sounds a lot like government taxation, doesn’t it?
I’m also going to give you a disclaimer: I just hate insurance companies. I don’t like the concept of them. It’s gambling. You’re paying a tiny bit, hoping that nothing happens to you, but when it does, you end up racking up a huge bill, which is eventually paid by everyone else who is the company’s customer. I think this leads to a lot of bad consequences, including but not limited to: greater risk taken by people on insurance (hey, other people will pick up my tab!), increased costs, increased bureaucracy, increased cronyism, and just plain more government. The insurance companies are a protected government racket, just like the AMA (which, I’ll have you know, keeps medical tuition ridiculously high, as well as costs for doctors in general, by controlling supply through AMA licensing boards that are given authority by government fiat.) And this is before we get to the fact that the current health insurance regime was basically created by FDR in the forties, and I pretty much hate everything FDR has done to our country through his New Deal.
The only thing you should need insurance for is catastrophes. You don’t use your auto insurance to pay for oil changes or gas, do you? Then why should your health insurance pay for checkups? It should pay if you get, say, hit by a meteor. But most of your health should be paid through tax-deductible health savings accounts, which would bring the cost down because people would then have to shop for healthcare. Competition generally brings down prices. And if you can get healthcare from WalMart, you’re looking at cheaper rates.
There are many horror stories out there in American medicine. There are a lot of people hanging onto Obamacare to take care of them, their families, and their children. But we have to be able to say, when we go up to knock Obamacare down, that we do have a solution for them, and a way to ease their pain. This is the angle to take.