Sunday, March 8, 2009

On The Stupidity of Employer Provided Healthcare

Time for a rant. Sorry.

I've been hearing and reading a lot of crap lately. All kinds of people are up in arms about the fact that Obama wants to do something about health care. There's all kinds of FUD being spread around as a result. I'm no health care expert and I would never claim to be one, but I do have an opinion or two, and a couple of facts to state:

1) I personally know too many people who don't have and cannot afford health insurance. I'm not talking about bums living under overpasses either, but good, hard working people - some with jobs, some who've lost jobs in the economic crash. And if a working software engineer is seeing these problems regularly, they're going to be a lot worse among people whose incomes are lower.

2) Getting health coverage through one's employer is stupid. Even in the best of cases it means that things can change in nasty ways during a job change, but much worse is possible. Lose your job, lose your insurance. Have a serious medical condition requiring ongoing treatment? Too bad. Got a family that depends on you? Too bad for them too. If it really was the case that everyone who lost his or her job deserved to lose it you might make an argument in favor of this turn of events, but I think you'd lose it when others - dependants of one sort or another - are considered.

3) A lot of vitriol is thrown around about the government being a lousy solution. How it is inefficient or corrupt. But no one ever stops and says "compared to what?" Recent events in the financial system - multiple ponzi schemes and billions of dollars lot - should be enough to make everyone take a step back and realize that there is no group of people that isn't subject to corruption and the effects of greed. Not one. The government is no worse than any business in this regard, and (in fact) it might be better, since much of our government is supposed to be open and accountable. The same cannot be said for the innards of most corporations.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I have a solution for health care in mind. I don't even know to what extent the government should be involved. In truth, I haven't a clue what a real solution will look like, but I do know that anything that continues to tie health care to employment is a problem. I've also come to the conclusion that insurance as we currently do it is a bad idea. Insurance companies are supposed to spread risk around. Everyone pays a little in and the company pays out when people experience the insured risk. But if they limit themselves to only insuring those at little or no risk, they aren't performing the service for which they were created and have instead become money making machines. In the process those who cannot get coverage are hurt. I find that unconscionable.

It may be un-American, but I actually think we get something for our taxes. Things like roads, courts, national defense, police, fire & EMS services, environmental protection, and (when it works) regulation to keep the most greedy among us from taking advantage of everyone else. My list is a good deal too short, but you get the idea. My taxes get me something in return. The life I lead is better because I pay them.

Specifically on health care, I would love to see a day when someone who is sick or injured doesn't face death, bankruptcy, or poor quality treatment for lack of money. To be honest, I'm willing to see my own taxes go up to make that happen. I've seen enough people worry about whether or not to go to a doctor or hospital already in my short life. That is not a choice anyone should have to make for financial reasons. Ever.

To this day I think a society can best be judged by how it treats the least fortunate among its members. On that front the US stinks. It needs to be fixed.