Arkansas, Health Care, and Money

Ok, Logan. I’m gonna try to engage with these ideas you’ve been throwing out about income inequality, but I need to go ahead and admit that my knowledge of economics and politics is shoddy at best. So I recognize my own opinions as half-formed and in need of education, but I find it’s nearly impossible to not have an opinion about something.

So, first, let me rightly understand your points. 1) income inequality is often driven by those with money choosing to buy things privately that are provided to the public free of charge (education being a great example). Or sometimes it might be those with money paying more for things, and again being upset that they still have to pay taxes to provide for those less fortunate: “why can’t they pay for it like I do?” they ask. Your metaphor of the sports stadium explains this pretty well. The result is isolation of the wealthy, envy from those below, and an artificial schism being created.

For point number 2, you pointed out how Arkansas should pass the medicare expansion bill that would let them receive more federal money and use it to buy private insurance for those who are uninsured and fall through the cracks of traditional medicare. It seems like a win-win. Use government money to fuel private industry, and care for your citizens at the same time. Have I got it right so far?

Now, here’s where I would like to weigh-in from the perspective of a traditional, heartless-bastard conservatism. Because, I can see a problem of principle with this situation that you’re describing. It’s not really a problem of practicality–meaning I don’t think that your solution wouldn’t work, but I think that many conservatives might disagree with you based upon a tightly held value: that the government and its money should be kept out of things as much as possible.

Now, I don’t think this is because they want people to suffer from lack of health insurance or anything like that. They just want a different solution: they might say that private charities, religious organizations/institutions, or everyday people.

I think I understand the reasoning behind this, or at least I think I can provide some. The reasoning is that the Government is generally woefully inefficient with its money, for one thing. Because it’s not its own money that it spends. Private companies count pennies. The government loses them by the hundreds.  that’s the first point, though admittedly, this one my be countered by the situation of the government buying private insurance as you described. I’m not sure.

The second point is more important. The government is bad at helping people. It creates programs instead of building relationships. Programs that are exploited and systems that get worked over. The new great American virtue is to work the system. This isn’t that terrible of a thing; we all know it happens, but it tends to foster that divide that you delineated. The people who get their insurance paid for will be resented by the people who pay for their own insurance. I know I would be a tad resentful. I pay lots of money for health insurance, and I still have a lot of bills to pay. I’m human. I’ll admit it. I don’t like it when other people get for free what I have to pay for.

These are the two obvious objections that I see. I’d like to throw in my personal perspective, however. The medical industry is bloated. It’s overpriced, over-complicated, and overdue for an overhaul (ok I know that’s cheesy but I’m leaving it in). It has gotten this way because it is fueled by a strange system of government and private money. The insurance system is mired by complicated rules and formulas, and the government system seems to be in constant threat of modification or extinction, to judge by election speeches.

To fix it, it needs to be more consumer driven. People need to know what things cost, for starters. As it is, it’s nearly impossible for poor people to pay for health care even if they have health insurance, because if they don’t know their network and insurance really well, a visit will cost them a few hundred dollars. And most poor people (I know because I’ve been one) don’t have a few dozen dollars to spare. It’s pretty obvious to me, with my limited experience in the world, that an insured patient will receive (and be billed) for a whole lot of extra scans and treatments than a non-insured patient.

My point is that the system is flawed. Consumers don’t know what they are paying for (if you think the tax code is complicated, try reading the coverage information for your health insurance). They don’t know how much care actually costs. And the system would never work if it were not for the weirdly strange system of insurance and government programs. They both need an overhaul.

So, what does this have to do with Arkansas and the income distribution? Well, for Arkansas, I could see people opposing this (I might oppose it) because money tends to solidify things. And I think we need to understand why the system is not working before we try to patch it. We need a new engine–not an oil change.

Income distribution I’ll have to tackle later. I’ve got more thoughts on this, but I’m nearing my self-imposed word limit.

By the way, the charts on the last post were phenomenal.


About Derrick

Derrick lives and works in South Carolina where he teaches English at a technical college and raises his two small children with his wife, Danielle.
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