Health care reform — or, when smart people go stupid *UPDATED*

I had an illuminating conversation with a neighbor this morning.  She’s very pleased that health care reform passed, because “we’ll all have insurance coverage now.”  This is an Ivy League educated woman, and that was her sole understanding of the monstrosity that just cleared Congress:  “We’ll all have insurance coverage now.”  The conversation got really strange after that.

I said, “Well, it’s not really insurance anymore, you know.”  A politely phrased “Huh?” was her response.  I explained:  “The new plan forces people to buy insurance or pay a penalty.  However, the penalty is significantly less than the cost of insurance, especially because it’s been predicted that the health care plan will cause an immediate 13%-15% increase in insurance rates.  Further, insurance companies are now required by law to provide insurance to anyone who asks, no matter how sick they are.  This means that people will choose to pay the fine, rather than to buy insurance while they’re healthy.  They will only buy insurance once their they’re sick — and that’s not insurance any more.  That’s just passing the cost to an entity that no longer has a necessary income stream from healthy people.  In 5-10 years, therefore (maybe less), all insurance companies will be bankrupt.”

Her response?  “You’re just too sophisticated.  I think most people will want to have insurance.  They’ve always wanted insurance and now they can buy it.  And anyway, most of the uninsured are healthy.”  (Oy, vey.  My brain is actually melting at this point.)

“Dear neighbor, People who wanted insurance could always buy insurance — and they did. Eighty-five percent of Americans are insured.   The ‘uninsured’ are composed of about a third illegal immigrants, a third people who don’t want insurance and never did, and a third people who genuinely can’t afford insurance.  Now they’re all being forced to buy insurance, except that the insurance is going to be even more expensive than before.  Or all these people can pay a cheaper fine on an ongoing basis and just buy ‘insurance’ when they need it.  I think even unsophisticated people are going to figure out that it’s not in their interest to buy insurance unless they’re sick — and in that case, it’s not insurance.”

“Yeah, but this will stop costs from going up,” she said.  (At this point I think I can actually feel my melted brains oozing out my ears.)

“Dear neighbor, we already know costs are going to go up.  Now taxes will too.  The best way to keep costs down would have been to increase competition.  Right now, your 70 year old husband, if he wants to buy insurance, is paying for a policy that provides him with fertility treatments.  Opening the market would drive down costs, because people could buy only what they need, and not what the government mandates.”

“Well,” she said.  “I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

I said a polite good-bye, and hauled myself uphill, leave a snail-like trail of melted brain matter behind me.  If she’s an example of the best of brightest, we truly have gotten the government we deserve.

UPDATE:  This just floated across my facebook screen:

Majority Rules! Thank you, Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, President Obama. Our children and grandchildren will see true liberty and welfare. True economic justice begins with one’s own well being and health. Coverage for all.

Where to begin?  “Majority rules?”  Well, yes, if by “majority rules” you mean going against the will of the majority of the American people.  What a very “newspeak-ish” construction of the phrase.  And how about “true liberty and welfare.”  I guess that works if you’re idea of liberty is to be totally dependent on an all-controlling government.  And can anyone translate for me “true economic justice begins with one’s own well being and health?”  That sounds just like gibberish.  I mean, really, I can’t even run that through the Orwellian Newspeak filter and translate it.

UPDATE II:  Patrick has been having his own incredibly frustrating interactions with a pro-health care liberal.