40 Million Without Health Insurance?
Tibor R. Machan
by Tibor R. Machan
figure of 40 million lacking health insurance in the USA keeps being
bandied about so much that it deserves to be thought about a bit,
even for us non-experts. What exactly does it mean?
implication for most who mention this figure is that the federal
government must do something to insure all these 40 million people.
Thatís, of course, a blatant non-sequitur.
that getting health insurance costs money it is the money that
enables people to pay for visits to doctors, hospital stays, laboratory
tests and so forth, which supposedly help combat illnesses the
government would have to obtain the funds from citizens, via taxes,
to provide it to the 40 million. So, this figure is usually deployed
so as to advocate more spending by the federal government based
on more taxation of the citizenry. That alone should make one suspicious
about the figure itself, since in the service of more government
largess, advocacy groups be they farmers, businesses, artists,
educators tend to exaggerate their needs.
hey, let us leave aside the veracity of the figure itself. The first
question that can be raised, then, is how long are the 40 million
uninsured? I used to be uninsured all through my adolescence, after
I ran away from home, until I enlisted in the Air Force. Then after
I got out, I was again uninsured for years. Only once I got a steady
job did health insurance benefits come along, usually for a reasonable
what if one is paranoid about getting sick? Or what if one is quite
healthy? That would mean one is buying insurance one probably doesnít
yet need in oneís life. Sure, some unexpected illness could strike
and thatís in part what insurance is for. But it is not clear that
everyone, even those with robust health, require insurance rather
than savings so as to prepare for such unexpected illnesses.
also, some folks do not work hard enough to be able to afford to
take care of their health needs. This is an idea that many public-minded
people may find odd, but getting insurance, like getting anything
else, costs money and if you do not make any, well you must do without.
Most of us do not have enough money for a boat and for going skiing
and hundreds of other things but because we work steadily enough
which is not an effortless feat and one that many refuse
to attain, actually, youíve heard of laggards and procrastinators
and such we manage to afford health insurance. How many folks
refuse to get into "the rat race" or to embark upon that
dreaded money grubbing bourgeois life style, preferring instead
of live the Bohemian way, which then leads to, among other things,
their not having health insurance?
course, as usual, there is the problem with children. Kids are often
brought into the world by utterly irresponsible parents who cannot
afford to care for them, which includes the inability to provide
sufficient health care for them. So, while these parents ordinarily
deserve zero tolerance as far as pity and compassion are concerned,
the kids are another story entirely. Here is where charity, generosity,
philanthropy and other kinds of voluntary aid come into the picture.
But this isnít a task for our legal authorities, who already have
a job to perform and do it rather ineptly, sad to say.
am sure this approach will not solve the problem for all. Yes, a
part of the solution is to acknowledge that some folks do not deserve
health insurance, so we shouldnít considere it some kind of societal
failure that they have none. But there may well be some left, even
if we factor in all the relevant considerations, who are doing their
best and still are uninsured. And even the charitable organizations
may not be up to helping some of these.
does not guarantee perfect satisfaction for all, even in the department
of meeting elementary needs. But before we conclude that our society
is in desperate straights because 40 million lack health insurance,
letís look at the figure in full context and consider what it may
or may not mean. It may well be that those 40 million people are
not the same ones from month to month, year to year, but switch
places all of the time. (This is true about poverty, for example,
where on average people remain poor for only about five years.)
So, very possibly, the many of the 40 million uninsured are, in
fact, uninsured for good reasons they fail to work hard enough
to afford it or they really donít need it for significant stretches
of their lives.
him mail] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most recently, Putting
Humans First: Why We Are Nature's Favorite.
Copyright © 2004 Tibor Machan