I welcome news stories that call attention to the uninsured and underinsured, because a smart country can't continue with the most expensive and ineffective health care "system" in the world.


But this story in the NYTimes brings the bile up in my throat: it consistently calls the young uninsured ("in the parlance of the industry" it admits), "young invincibles." 

This is a fine bit of framing: it implies quite neatly that these uninsured are simply headstrong and foolhardy, as the young are wont to be, and their lack of insurance is a symptom of their own failure to see that they may get sick someday.

It's sales language, in other words, designed to convince that rare person who can afford insurance but prefers to spend the money on extended snowboarding trips that he's being foolish and ought to splash out the cash. (And that description does seem to fit the last fellow they found to interview for the article.)

But why are they using this "parlance of the industry" throughout the article when the vast majority of people they speak to (and the vast majority of the uninsured) are people who seem very aware of their own mortality, who in some cases have serious and persistent health problems like asthma and diabetes, and who cannot afford America's overpriced private insurance?

These are people who are enduring huge risks with their heath, self-medicating, stretching out their medicines, and, when something does happen, being saddled with huge debts they can't pay (which of course means the debt will end up in the bills of others -- in fact, part of the reason they can't pay is because their bills are inflated, in part to fatten for-profit hospitals bottom lines, but in part because previous patients couldn't pay):
Alanna Boyd, a 28-year-old receptionist, recalled [...] the $17,398 — including $13 for the use of a television — that she was charged after spending 46 hours in October at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan with diverticulitis, a digestive illness. “I could have gone to a major university for a year. Instead, I went to the hospital for two days.”
That seems a bit excessive, no?

Personally, right now, I have great insurance. But there was a time between college and my current job when I was uninsured and certainly not because I thought I was "invincible": at the time we were working hard and spending very little, and insurance was not a part of my job, nor was it affordable. I never took other people's medications, but I did put off going to a doctor too long when I had a bad ear infection, greatly overpaid to see her when I did ($150), and was prescribed antibiotics I couldn't afford (over $100) -- which, incidentally, didn't work, but I couldn't afford to go back and try again.

When I got my current job, with insurance, I went to a GP who couldn't see the problem ($15). She sent me to an ENT ($20) who literally got into my ear and "fixed" it. (There was a tear in my eardrum so small and so close to the edge of the eardrum, the GP hadn't been able to see it.) To treat the underlying infection, the ENT prescribed me antibiotics. When I went to pick them up, the pharmacist, joking, told me it was $100. I started to hand over my card -- I was thinking, "thank goodness I have a better job now and can afford this" -- but he stopped me. He was joking, he said, a bit disturbed that I hadn't noticed. My prescription, because I had insurance, was only $10. 

This insurance I have costs me just over $100/month, in part because my employer helps pay for it, but in part because I'm in a very large pool of participating employees -- I work for the state of Florida. Imagine how cheap it would be if that pool included everyone in the entire country? But that's not the primary reason to do it. Hell, I'm for universal single-payer insurance even if it were to double my own personal costs (which it wouldn't), because it's immoral and dangerous for all of us to have millions of Americans suffering through and being overcharged in this way.

Please stop calling them by terms "in the parlance of the industry": the industry wants money and frames things in such a way as to get it. Uninsured Americans are no more or less wise than insured Americans -- the only difference between them and me is a good, government job... a bit of luck... that's it.


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