Thursday, October 09, 2008

Reason.tv on Health Insurance

I'm featured in the new Reason.tv video, "How to Fix America's Health Insurance Crisis: GET SOME."



Interestingly, you can see both of my offices in this video: my CSUN office (at 2:45) and my FRINGE office (at 3:59, right above the Hustler store).

I think the video makes this pretty clear, but it's worth emphasizing again: there are real problems with the current healthcare system, and there are genuinely needy people who can't afford health insurance. The point is that we shouldn't exaggerate the issue. The "45 million uninsured" figure certainly overstates the problem. Besides including people who could afford insurance if they wanted to, that figure also includes people who are only transitionally uninsured (that is, they had insurance recently and will soon have it again), as well as people who could be covered by existing government programs if they just signed up. Also, lack of health insurance is not synonymous with lack of healthcare.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe you guys have a point up to a point. But I also believe that if someone is chronically sick or disabled that the government should help them. Also, if that little girl gets sick, or one of those partygoers has a health crisis, like say appendicitis, they should be able to get emergency care without being destroyed financially in the process by outrageous hospital and medical bills. Of course, this assumes that the government is solvent and not bankrupted by the thief-in-chief, Bush and his accomplice, Cheney, and their CEO cronies in the private sector that are walking home with the store by their ridiculous pay. Before a massive overhall of healthcare, I believe we should reform the way Wall St. does business and the way corporations are mismanaged and looted. Again, I blame a lot of that on Bush and Cheney and the crooked, greedy people who put them in power. Bush and Cheney did as they were told to do. Mission accomplished, indeed!

Anonymous said...

What are economists for if they can't tell us the impact on the economy if people change their spending habits by foregoing the beer & cigarettes and cell phones to purchase health insurance? This would be a boon to the insurance industry for sure. Will the cost of health care come down for everybody? Come on, you guys are the experts. Don't leave us hanging; we need answers!

Anonymous said...

"...the medicines and treatments he may need to live longer."

I guess you mean that if he has a underlining condition that's going untreated - some kind of health screening? I'd like to see a cost-benefit analysis of that! Most young people don't go to the doctor unless they're sick, usually very sick. That guy, in particular, was spending $300 per month on supplements. To my mind, that is a better investment in preventive health and long life than spending $100 per month on the insurance salesperson.

One day, I'd like to see the evidence that private insurance is more cost effective than government insurance. Just where are the efficiencies? What do insurance companies produce that the government can't? Call me naive, but I want to see the data.

Richard said...

Wow, I open up Reason TV and suddenly, "Glen Whitman? There's a name I recall... oh yeah, way back from Free-Market.net's Forums." Its cool to see old buddies growing and making an impact in the world!

I made a blog post on the same sort of issues here

Glen Whitman said...

"...the medicines and treatments he may need to live longer."

I guess you mean that if he has a underlining condition that's going untreated - some kind of health screening? I'd like to see a cost-benefit analysis of that! Most young people don't go to the doctor unless they're sick, usually very sick.


That bit about "the medicines and treatments he may need to live longer" was an off-the-cuff comment. If I were writing it, I probably would have said something like, "... the treatment he needs if he has a catastrophic accident or illness." I certainly don't believe that health insurance is necessary to pay for routine health expenses.

That guy, in particular, was spending $300 per month on supplements. To my mind, that is a better investment in preventive health and long life than spending $100 per month on the insurance salesperson.

Okay, let's suppose that's the case. It's still true that he could afford health insurance if he wanted to, but he chooses not to. He has different priorities. Should we regard this as evidence of a pressing social problem? Or to put it another way, if he had chosen to buy health insurance instead -- even though the protein supplements are a better investment for him -- would we see his lack of protein supplements as a pressing social problem?

One day, I'd like to see the evidence that private insurance is more cost effective than government insurance. Just where are the efficiencies? What do insurance companies produce that the government can't? Call me naive, but I want to see the data.

Well, I won't try to rehash the whole healthcare debate here, because the video addresses just one corner of that debate. But to act like there's just no data on the advantages (and yes, disadvantages) of private insurance is just obtuse. All you have to do is look around, visit a few websites. There is plenty of data on the long waiting periods for treatment in Canada and the U.K., to take just one example.

vwbbug said...

Very informative! You hit it right on the nose in this piece when you explained that politicians aren't the cure-all.
We need to take responsiblity for our own health insurance. A lot of honest hard-working, non-boozing people are without health insurance. These folks need to be aware of what's available to them during the times when they are without. The government has quite a few health insurance programs, especially for children and pregnant women.
People also take advantage of government programs, which makes it difficult for the honest folks who are in need. All the lines, paperwork, and red tape are set in place to weed out the folks who might take advantage of these programs.
There are some folks without health insurance that need to set aside their pride for the sake of their children. There are times when we need to help ourselves and our families without embarrassment. We need to take pride in taking care of our families, even if means relying on government assistance from time to time.

Anonymous said...

" There is plenty of data on the long waiting periods for treatment in Canada and the U.K., to take just one example."

A friend of mine from Canada recently stayed with my family for a few weeks because needed surgery quicker than the long lines in Canada.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a libertarian moral dilemma here regarding "just get some" health care. Can you resolve it?

It would be immoral for a hospital to turn down someone in the midst of a possibly fatal health crisis such as acute appendicitis. The government has to be willing to guarantee that the hospital bills don't go unpaid; why should the hospital get stuck footing the bill? You cannot fairly ask a private hospital to act as a charity. It might drive them out of business as well.

So people who can afford to "just get some" have little incentive to do so because they'll be off the hook unless the government becomes a massive collection agency trying to recover all that medical debt created.

Alternatively, government can mandate some form of universal health care forcing people to "get some". But this is what you want to avoid, hence the dilemma. Ethically speaking, someone is going to get coerced by the government, which libertarians hate.

Anonymous said...

I believe health care should be free. I also believe that rent, utilities, basic food, and all other necessities of life should be free, just like air & water are. Then, I can decide what I want to spend my hard earned money on that I really want so that I can enjoy my life as I see fit. Libertarians have no concept of what freedom is really all about. Cindy McCain has the right idea; inherit so much money that everything is essentially free for her. How many houses does she not remember that she owns? Remember one thing, Cindy, a house is not a home. Isn't that the American dream come true? Reward sloth, avarice, and excess. I want some of those old-fashioned virtues, too. Count me in, and I vote.

Justin said...

So you found the most irresponsible demographic group (18-25 year old rocker boys) to prove that Americans don't have health insurance because of personal irresponsibility.

Selection bias anyone?

Glen Whitman said...

Justin -- I think the video made it clear that we're not claiming everyone in the 45 million uninsured is like the "rocker boys," as you call them. I said explicitly that some people really can't afford insurance. The point is that many other people can, and those rocker boys are prime examples. Many of the uninsured are, in fact, people in that age bracket who let other things take priority.

Glen Whitman said...

Also, Justin, do you make the same charge of selection bias when advocates of a single-payer system trot out the very most sympathetic hard cases as examples of uninsured Americans, while failing even to mention that some of the uninsured could afford it?

Dr.Rutledge said...

Hi Glenn,
I'm an academic physician (formerly at Harvard and Stanford) who found your blog while looking for the best health writers. I think your writing is great! I would like to feature you on Wellsphere, a top 10 health website that has well over 2 million visitors monthly.

If you would like to learn more, just drop me an email to Dr.Rutledge@wellsphere.com

Gregory Rehmke said...

Great video. Other issues include these people not being able to purchase the insurance that might want. State laws lard all sorts of unwanted mandates on insurance plans. Plus they know they can buy health care service cheap at local clinics (with cash or by waiting in line). And the ultra-cheap health care and insurance that Wal-Mart could offer is blocked by immigration restrictions that keep qualified medical professionals in Mexico, India and elsewhere from coming to American to provide such services.