I’m not sure plans are fleshed out enough to offer an alternative, but wonder what the consequences would be if these efforts are fruitful. Most constitutional scholars believe they will fail, but stranger things have happened.
My understanding is that some people think the odds are in their favor that they won’t get sick or have an accident, consequently they don’t want to be required to pay into an insurance plan. Presumably, they’ll put money aside on their own, just in case.
We are related to a young couple that just had their first baby, 10 weeks early. Mother and child each spent many weeks in intensive care and, when they left the hospital, their combined bill was up around $1 million.
Should they have saved that amount before they even considered having a baby? I wonder what would have happened had they not had insurance.
If states opt out of mandatory coverage, I wonder what will happen to similar couples if they follow the lead of libertarian local lawmakers and decide to take their chances without the safety net of insurance? Would their home state -- the one that advocated for self reliance -- step in and help them out? Would a hospital garnishee their wages for life? Or, would they be turned away at the hospital door?
This whole discussion reminds me of Mountains Beyond Mountains (Random House, 2003), a terrific book by Tracy Kidder profiling the life and work of Paul Farmer, M.D. Farmer's goal in life was and still is to eradicate infectious disease in poor countries. He works in Haiti and other desperately poor nations where health care is scarce, even if a person can pay for it.
Much of Mountains focuses on Farmer’s work in Haiti, where hospitals expect payment of the bill before patients are discharged. If they can’t pay, they’re confined to a nearby building until someone pays the bill for them. I’m told this is practice is fairly common in some African countries, as well.
The facility for non-payers typically is spartan, to say the least. No water, food or medical care is provided. Family members can come in and take care of loved ones, however. As you might expect, many people who survive whatever sent them to the hospital in the first place end up dying of dehydration, starvation or infection. Many of the dead are newborns.
Inhumane, you say? I’d agree, but the rationale sounds almost familiar. First, the hospital says, it can’t help others if some don’t pay their bills. Second, people should take responsibility for their own lives and their own health care needs.
I don’t imagine this is what the states of Minnesota, Arizona and others envision when they advocate for “freedom” from health insurance for their citizenry.
Actually, there is a pretty good way people can put aside money to pay for medical costs, and it’s called health insurance.