Too stupid to notice

Here's a fun item in the Wall Street Journal.  It's fun because it's an intellectual disaster.  Here, just for entertainment, is one glaring and obvious problem:

"The cost of treating the 45 million uninsured is shifted to the rest of us."

So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are harangued about the 45 million people lacking medical care, and on Tuesday and Thursday we are told we already pay for that care. Left-wing reformers think that if they split the two arguments we are too stupid to notice the contradiction. Furthermore, if cost shifting is bad, wait for the Mother of all Cost Shifting when suppliers have to overcharge the private plans to compensate for the depressed prices forced on them by the public plan.

This is is not a contradiction, as the clueless author of this dismal piece suggests.  Besides, 45 million people lack health insurance (of any variety) but many more lack meaningful health insurance.  For the consequences of that, read this article in the New York Times.  Because it is printed in that paper, it is indisputably true.  Anyway, back to the point, people who lack health insurance, the good argument goes, still will seek life-saving medical care (after having put off routine care).  Someone will pay for that.  The cost will be much higher than it would have been had these people been insured like the rest of us. 

The rest of the piece reads like a series of examples from a textbook on informal fallacies.  More on that later, maybe.  But let me close with this tidbit from the Times' article mentioned above:

At St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, where he went for two separate heart procedures last year, the hospital’s admitting office looked at Mr. Yurdin’s coverage and talked to Aetna. St. David’s estimated that his share of the payments would be only a few thousand dollars per procedure.

He and the hospital say they were surprised to eventually learn that the $150,000 hospital coverage in the Aetna policy was mainly for room and board. Coverage was capped at $10,000 for “other hospital services,” which turned out to include nearly all routine hospital care — the expenses incurred in the operating room, for example, and the cost of any medication he received.

In other words, Aetna would have paid for Mr. Yurdin to stay in the hospital for more than five months — as long as he did not need an operation or any lab tests or drugs while he was there.

Aetna contends that it repeatedly informed Mr. Yurdin and the hospital of the restrictions in policy, which is known in the industry as a limited-benefit plan.

Hurray for private insurance!

2 thoughts on “Too stupid to notice”

  1. You contend that there is no contradiction between point A (we need to do something about the 45 million people who have no health insurance) and point B (we need to do something to control the cost of emergency care for these 45 million uninsured). Taken separately, I agree that they aren’t contradictory. But when the two statements are fused into an argument for both the moral and economic imperative of health care reform, I think the author’s point is clear enough: if you acknowledge that the uninsured are not being left to suffer and die under the current health care system (at great cost), then you’ve undercut the moral argument for insuring them.

  2. David S.,

    Having health *insurance* is different from getting life saving emergency care.  While no one (let’s say for the sake of argument) is denied life-saving emergency care, many do not have insurance to begin with.  As a result, they end up in the ER because they do not get routine, preventative care.  That’s (a) too costly; (b) morally unsustainable.  So no it doesn’t “undercut” the moral argument, it’s rather a different feature of it.  Besides, the author’s point was that there was some kind of contradiction, which there wasn’t.

Comments are closed.