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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What, Me Worry?

by digby

Who's this:

After my husband quit his job earlier this year (to become a full-time stay-at-home dad), we had a choice. We could either buy health insurance from his former employer through a program called COBRA at a cost of more than $1,000 per month(!) or we could go it alone in Maryland’s individual market. Given our financial circumstances, that “choice” wasn’t much of a choice at all. We had to go on our own.

We discovered that the most generous plans in Maryland’s individual market cost $700 per month yet provide no more than $1,500 per year of prescription drug coverage–a drop in the bucket if someone in our family were to be diagnosed with a serious illness.

With health insurance choices like that, no wonder so many people opt to go uninsured.

That was in 2004, so you can imagine how much more expensive those plans in Maryland are today. Health care costs are rising in double digits each year.

Still wondering?

It's hard to believe, but it's none other than our lady of the internment camps herself: Michele Malkin.

As far as "choices" are concerned. Mark Steyn patiently explained once again today that parents of four children earning 45,000 dollars a year should just work harder and sell their house to pay for health insurance:

Mr Frost works "intermittently". The unemployment rate in the Baltimore metropolitan area is four-percent. Perhaps he chooses to work "intermittently," just as he chooses to send his children to private school, and chooses to live in a 3,000-square-foot home. That's what free-born citizens in democratic societies do: choose. Sometimes those choices work out, and sometimes they don't. And, when they don't and catastrophe ensues, it's appropriate that the state should provide a safety net. But it should be a safety net of last resort, and it's far from clear that it is in this case.

Setting aside the total dishonesty of that --- surely Steyn has been informed by now that the Frost kids go to private school on scholarship and the house was bought for 55,000 in 1990 --- what has become crystal clear in this debate is one that I think needs to be discussed. The Republicans believe that people should be completely destitute, living in a one room shack and working two jobs before they "deserve" subsidized health insurance. The middle class who are one car accident or one cancer diagnosis away from losing their jobs, being unable to afford either the cadillac COBRA plans from their employers (my last one here in California was $1700.00 a month and I'm healthy) must not be allowed to keep ANY assets.They must be, as Steyn's pal wrote, "dying on the streets with sores on their bodies" before they qualify for aid.

But, of course, neither will they necessarily even be able to buy private health insurance at any price even if they do live in a one room apartment with their four kids and work two jobs. (I was turned down recently because I had had gum surgery in 1996.)

This is the world in which we live. Insurance companies only want to cover young, healthy or rich people. And even if you manage to pay the expensive premiums with huge deductibles, they will try to find a way to avoid paying for your care anyway. That's the way it works. If you are lucky enough to have health insurance at your employer you'd better hope you never lose that job. More importantly, you'd better hope you never get sick.

One of the things these snotty critics fail to acknowledge is that even if the Frosts had had private health insurance, after their kids got sick they would very likely have had to go bankrupt. Those kids spent five months in the hospital. The bills came to the millions of dollars and no middle class person, no matter what good "choices" they make, can afford to pick up the 20% or so they'd have to pay under an "affordable" health care policy when something like that happens. Medical bankruptcy happens every day, although our fabulous new bankruptcy laws make it far more difficult to get a fresh start than it used to be, even if you have a special needs kid and can't work full time.

If the free-wheeling capitalists of the right wing believe that you can keep an economy dynamic, growing and flexible in a twisted system like this, they are even more blindly ideological than I thought. This is not just a moral crisis, it's an economic crisis and if these people are determined to continue down this path then I suggest the rest of us start buying land in Costa Rica because this country is going to fail. Hugely. The numbers do not add up.

As John Cole pointed out yesterday, the Frosts should be the Republican dream family. Mr Frost is a blue collar entrepreneur; Mrs Frost is a part time worker with four young children, two of whom have serious health problems. They live in a house they've fixed up themselves which is their only real asset aside from an "investment" that has gained $500 in value in ten years. (Like many Americans, I doubt these people have Roth IRA's and 401K plans and stock portfolios, don't you?) Despite the nosy uninformed discussion of their kitchen counter tops, these people are not living high off the hog. They have virtually no disposable income. They are just average, working Americans trying to do their best.

Apparently, that's not enough. Malkin and her husband are lucky enough to qualify for wingnut welfare and have healthy children. Bully for them. They got theirs and are now railing against the "choices" made by two working parents who make 45,000 a year. But I think she and her stalker squad are going to be surprised to find that most people don't see things their way --- this smug judgmentalism and rank callousness is not the American way. That's not what freedom is all about.

And I think they may be even more surprised to find that a lot of American businesses are going to get on board health care reform in a big way. They are beginning to see the writing on the wall if we don't get a grip on this crisis. Tax cuts will not rein in costs. They will not mitigate the kind of risk required to compete in the global marketplace. They will not ensure a healthy workforce. And without that, we've got serious, serious problems. At least some people who want to keep making money in America must see that even if the blind ideologues of the right don't.

Of course, many of them are Ayn Rand acolytes and consider sick kids to be "parasites," so I may be too optimistic on that. Hopefully, they can at least see it in terms of pure self-interest. All they have to do is run the numbers.

H/t to Sadly No