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The health care special (1)

November 10, 2013

A former workmate sent the letter below about someone he knows with an attitude. (I’m keeping him anonymous for obvious reasons.)

I think he’s a little over the top predicting an economic death spiral, especially from one observation. Anecdotes aren’t data, after all. On the other hand, who knows how prevalent this attitude is? It certainly applies to other things than health care benefits. So he may be right that it’s a harbinger of disaster.

In any event, the attitude he describes is bad cultural juju. Taking ‘free’ government benefits that you could buy for yourself strikes me as a violation-by-proxy of the Golden Rule. Give your fellow citizens a break, people (even if some of them are wealthier than you).

I have to add that I’d feel a lot better if his acquaintance with the attitude were a 20-something rather than a 50-something. That’s the scariest part IMO.

I have a close acquaintance who shall remain nameless. Single and in his/her mid 50s. While s/he seems to be in good health, s/he is a functional alcoholic; drinks all day long, every day.

S/he had several jobs in IT in Silicon Valley area back in the ‘80s and 90’s but decided it wasn’t his/her cup of tea. Now s/he supposedly run a seasonal small business in the northern Midwest. S/he hires day laborers only and pays them in cash each day. S/he only buys business insurance when required to show a active policy to bid on bigger commercial jobs.

In the winter s/he closes down the operation up north and heads to the south to spend winter. The winter business apparently is not as productive (due to lack of demand) so s/he does all sorts of odd jobs to supplement income. I have no idea what his/her annual income is and suspect that s/he operates on cash basis as much as possible to avoid paying FICA, Medicare, state and federal income tax. And of course s/he has no medical insurance.

A few days ago I was watching the news and of course the segment was on the Obamacare debacle.

S/he walked in and stated that s/he was looking forward to Obamacare so s/he could afford medical insurance. S/he then described how the high deductible medical insurance s/he retained for a few years was “a complete waste of money.” So apparently s/he did not get sick or injured often/seriously enough to meet the deductible. S/he said “This was a total waste of $10,000.” I asked if the medical plan was $10000/year (which seemed extraordinarily high). “No. That’s what I paid over 8 or so years.” So when s/he had insurance s/he paid about $105/month for coverage. S/he went on about how greedy insurance companies are and how much better the Obamacare exchange plans will be. Note I said “will be” as s/he had not yet bothered to try and sign up.

And part of the reason s/he had not explored his/her options under Obamacare was the extensive reports of the web interface failure. The other stated reason was s/he wanted to know where s/he would get the “best deal.” In the northern mid-western state or in the southern state (that also has no income tax).

So I asked why s/he had not at least checked to see what the cost/options were as there are plenty of other resources, short of signing up, where s/he could get preliminary estimates? Answer: Website problems (missing my point) and the fact that the deadline is weeks/months away. I dropped the discussion at that point.

A week or so later the subject came up again and s/he stated “Well its most likely I’ll just pay the $95 fine.” When I asked if s/he got monthly cost estimates, s/he just reiterated s/he would “go with the fine and then pick up insurance if/when s/he needs it or just file bankruptcy like everyone else does.”

So my acquaintance enjoys a life where s/he can afford to spend the winter in the south, in an apartment loaded with electronic toys (LCD TV, PCs, iPad, iPhone), drink all day long, and work when it is convenient or perhaps necessary when cash flow tightens.

And s/he wants everyone else to pay their medical care going forward because doing paying their own way would effectively deny him/her the lifestyle they have selected.

I am betting my friend’s approach is going to be replicated by millions of other folks.

The ‘sick’ may get better deals and they’ll likely take advantage of them.

Many of the able will remain uninsured until the last minute, because they can.

An economic death spiral is inevitable.

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