The problem of health care confronting Americans is well illustrated by a couple I'll call Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class. This is a true story, but, in respect for their privacy, I'm not going to use their names.
Mr. Middle Class is 66 and his wife is 60. He fought in the big war. They have worked since the age of 16 and paid their taxes. They have provided college educations for two sons. Their home is almost paid for.His Social Security check is $572 a month. He works part time. His wife works full time as a real estate saleswoman. The federal government will not allow them to earn more than $810 a month total before they have to start refunding Social Security. Keep that number in mind.
Everything was going along fine until Mrs. Middle Class developed breast cancer and the group insurance premium went up from $130 a month to $400 a month. Turns out this group policy is a trust - a deal where a group buys insurance and resells it to its members - and is therefore unregulated.
The problem was trying to find a policy they could afford that would not reject her because of her cancer - pre-existing condition in insurance terminology. Actually, the cancer hasn't reappeared, but that doesn't matter to insurance companies.
Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class found what they thought was another group policy they could afford, issued by a Georgia company Mr. Middle Class represented. A year later, they discovered it was a scam and all of their premiums were down the drain.
In desperation, they turned to a state-sponsored plan, similar to those in many states, where people who are turned down by the commercial companies can supposedly get insurance.
Yeah, they were told, they can get medical insurance with a $5,000 deductible for only $426.53 a month.
The point of this story is that a couple of good, solid, hard-working and prudent Americans who have never taken a dime of government welfare are staring financial ruin in the face - and it has all the look of a double-barrel shotgun.
It's bad enough that they have to keep working just to maintain a decent standard of living, but if Mrs. Middle Class develops a serious illness, they're done for financially. Here are the problems:
The government causes inflation.
The insurance industry is cherry picking the good risks and dumping the bad, rather than take them all and spreading the risk.
The tax code generally favors the rich because the rich generally have lobbyists, and people like Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class are represented only by their congressman who feels he has to get $250,000 from the lobbyists in order to get two votes from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class. Obviously, there is a win-lose situation here.
The government at every level does a poor job of regulating, primarily because the regulated often fund the campaigns of the regulators.
The government will insure Citicorp against nationalization or confiscation of its investment in Turkey or some other foreign country, it will provide $15 billion to $19 billion worth of aid to foreign countries, it will spend $l billion a day to defend a foreign sheik's throne, but for Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class it doesn't have much to offer except platitudes and posturing.