A friend of mine from high school asked on Facebook a few days ago, “Why should I pay for your health insurance?” Because we have a certain amount of history together, I’m going to answer that question seriously instead of hiding or unfriending this person, which would be my normal inclination with anyone who has managed to reach our age without figuring this out.
So why should you pay for my health insurance? Lots of reasons.
Maybe because I pay for yours and your family’s, and I do it willingly. More than that, I insist on it. Who do you think has been churning the economic engine while you’ve had your career in the military? Who do you think has raised a stink when your benefits haven’t been funded, your institutions have been allowed to rot, your fellow service members’ coverages haven’t kept up with the dangers of the modern military age? I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t anyone leaning “kinda libertarian on this one.”
Pat yourself on the back all you want for the planning or whatever that got you into a position where you don’t think you need to worry about paying for your own health care. But remember, I was there. I know just how much planning didn’t go into those choices. You lucked into this one, and you’re going to have to count on luck to keep what you’ve been promised.
To your fellow “Why should I” libertarians, you’re a slogan at best. There’s nothing special about you or the military that will keep them from cutting your benefits so they can keep more of “their” taxes. The only thing putting you one major illness away from bankruptcy, just like the vast majority of the rest of us, is that there are people out there who answer, “Why should I,” with, “Because to do anything else would be indecent.”
If that isn’t enough for you, maybe you should pay for my health care because you already do. You pay more taxes because my insurance is untaxed. You pay more for products because my salary and benefits have to be enough to cover my costs. You pay the unemployed because I or others like me work enough hours to pay for everything, which keeps jobs from opening up. (It’s cheaper, after all, to pay overtime than to pay health benefits for another employee.) You pay for disability if the incentive structure of my private insurance is set up to prevent short-term problems over the life of my one-year contract instead of over my much longer lifetime.
Only right now, you’re paying way too much for my health care. You’re paying for the most inefficient health care and insurance industry in the world. Free market health care maximizes profit, not efficiency.
Or maybe you should pay because you want to protect your own health. Can you come up with a better breeding ground for epidemics than crowded emergency rooms full of infants, seniors, people with open wounds, and the immune-compromised? Can you come up with a better way to push people to those emergency rooms with serious illness than to make them unable to afford a trip to their doctor early in their disease? And how long were those people wandering around, ill and contagious but unable to afford care, before they were forced to seek treatment?
Or maybe you should pay because you think the U.S. should be a land of innovation and enterprise again. Because you understand that large companies are mostly buying small companies these days in order to add products and services, not innovating on their own, having slashed their research and development budgets and staffs over the last couple of decades. (If you don’t know that, I’m sure you have enough friends in R&D to find out what’s happened to their departments.) Small companies are currently driving innovation, if they haven’t throughout our history, but small companies pay more for health insurance and have the smallest of margins. People smart enough to change the world are smart enough to know what they risk by starting a company to pursue their ideas.
Or maybe, just maybe, you should understand that caring for one another, creating a better world for all, is what humans do. You should know that the point of this incredibly long adolescence of ours is socialization, becoming fit to take our places among the larger complex group, understanding both the advantages and responsbilities that this gives us. You should understand that claiming only the advantages while sniffing at the responsibilities is claiming the perpetual status of adolescent, which is why the grown-ups around you look so disappointed or angry when you say these things.
In other words, for as far as you’ve come and as much as you’ve accomplished, maybe it’s time to finish growing up.