My wife, son and I moved into the farmhouse at the orchard when we moved back here in 1970. The house was old, having been built in 1856, and needed a lot of work, to make an understatement. It had one electrical circuit, one sort-of bathroom, a kitchen sink and four rooms downstairs that were, more or less, livable.
We worked for months getting the downstairs mostly livable, adding circuits and adding a bathroom upstairs with a tub and shower. We moved in, sort of, that fall.
We were young and didn’t know much better. And we bought insurance on the house. We continued to pay insurance for the next 42 years and had only one claim in all those years.
Over all those years we paid for insurance but never needed it. Then in 2012 we did need it. The house was completely destroyed by a fire. The point is, our insurance paid the full value of the house and we were able to build a new house that, even though it is not the house full of memories we had then, we have a place to live.
That is the reason for insurance.
So when I hear people saying it “isn’t fair” for young people to pay for health insurance when they are young and healthy it tells me they don’t have a clue about what insurance really means.
Ever since Ben Franklin introduced the idea of fire insurance in Philadelphia, it has been part of our lives. What insurance means is that everyone puts some money into a company when their house is not on fire so that if and when it ever burns, there will be money there for them.
It is not just the money they put in but some of the money paid in by all the “members” of the company. That is to say, there will be people who pay into the company as long as they own their house who will never get any of it back. And they undoubtedly will be happy about that.
So when people say it “isn’t fair” that young, healthy people have to put money into a company that includes people who are old, sick or injured, they are wrong.
Saying it “isn’t fair” supposes two things that should be obvious. One, those young, healthy people will not always be young.
When I was 26 I did not think I would make it to 40. I am now older than either my dad or brother who both died when they were 68. I have absolutely no idea how much longer I will go on, but as I see it, I’m already on borrowed time. The point is those “young healthy” people need to contribute to a system so that when they are no longer young or healthy it will be there for them.
Second, there is no guarantee they will remain healthy. A serious illness or a catastrophic accident can strike anyone at any time. If and when something like that should happen they will need the combined resources of a lot of people to see them through.
That is the idea behind insurance. Everyone shares the cost, the risk and the benefits. It is what we think of as a commonwealth. In a commonwealth everyone shares the costs of a lot of things. Things like roads, schools, police protection, and all the things government does for everyone. If that sounds like some kind of socialism it probably is, but in the end we all benefit from it.
I have heard people say they have no children so they should not have to pay for the schools, but they seem to forget that at one time someone else paid for their own education. And this country was founded on the idea that it could only survive if its citizens were educated. And that was not just for the people who could afford an education at a private school. It was because of that need that the concept of universal education was born, and with universal education came universal taxation to pay for it.
Sad to say, the tenet of a shared burden as well as a shared benefit may now be in jeopardy. Whether it touches insurance or education, only people who are too selfish or too self-centered to accept their role in a civilized society would object to universal education, universal insurance and universal taxation.
I have heard people say that people could not “afford” the concept of a health insurance system run totally by the federal government. But what they fail to realize is that they would no longer be paying for individual or family hospitalization. If they pay $500 per month and $6000 per year to a private company and their taxes go up by $4,000 they are saving $2000 per year. Who loses?
The private insurance companies, of course. That is probably why such a plan will never be enacted. Those insurance companies have a virtual stranglehold on our elected representatives. They fund the campaigns and legislators know they cannot do anything the insurance lobby does not want. That lobby is like the proverbial camel, who got its nose in the tent in the evening and took over the whole tent by sunrise. Maybe it’s time to get the camel out of the tent entirely.