What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smart people can be very dumb sometimes

Dear Justice Antonin Scalia,

Regarding your argument that "young people are not "'stupid' and should be able to buy insurance when there is a 'substantial risk of incurring high medical costs.'"

With all due respect sir, your argument does not have a basis in reality as the most popular provision of the ACA already enacted is that parents can keep their kids on their health insurance until the children are 26. Your argument here, on the face of it, holds no water.

This is because the parents, at least, know that young people can, very suddenly and without prior indication, end up with medical bills that would exceed the amount of their total student loans for a four-year college. One broken bone which requires surgery can lead to a total bill over $35,000 (I know this from personal experience, and that amount is approximately 10 years out of date now). The news regularly reports on kids falling over dead because of undiagnosed heart or circulatory problems. They don't even mention those that survive to find themselves dealing with a chronic condition. Again, here I speak from the experience of a friend who found himself with a chronic heart condition in his late 20s. I don't know the total amount of his medical expenses, but I do know he was glad for coverage under his wife's employment plan.

Please, sir, move beyond the circle of your friends and look out at the wider experience. Obviously all those parents who are glad they can keep their children on their own plans know something you haven't experienced, or that you wish to ignore. Costly medical bills and chronic healthcare problems are not the provence of the aged.



Eric said...

He means young people like the 17-year-old who, a couple of years ago, got his gas pedal confused with his brake pedal and accelerated approaching a red light, zipping halfway through an intersection until the little pickup truck hit the side of the VW Beetle I was driving three of my friends in and the laws of physics completely took charge of the situation, right? Or does he mean a young person like his 16-year-old girlfriend, a passenger in his vehicle, whose face was badly cut up in the accident? Or a young person like his other passenger, his plucky 12-year-old little sister who was relatively unscathed (she may have had a broken bone like everybody in my car did, but if she did, she spent the entire ambulance ride--which I shared with her--asking if her brother and his girlfriend were alright; an impressively tough and brave kid with a big heart from what I saw of her)?

All of whom were minors, covered by their parents' insurance (one hopes/assumes), true. But the point stands: one incurs a substantial risk of incurring high medical costs just by living. There were four not-nearly-so-young people with varying degrees of medical coverage in my car who certainly weren't planning on getting t-boned and breaking or fracturing assorted arm and leg bones while passing beneath a steady green light at a reasonable rate of speed (I habitually slow at intersections, anyway, just sayin').

The whole point of health insurance being that it covers unanticipated health problems. Certainly if any of us had known when we were teens that we would have immediate out-of-pocket costs for ambulances, ER treatment, PT, etc. when we were twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, I'm sure we would have put a little aside for our broken-bone-rainy-day-fund. Fie upon us for not being a bunch of precogs and setting aside a wad for random encounters with bad teenage drivers. Fie on everybody else who didn't see their cancer diagnosis coming, failed to anticipate that heart attack or stroke, didn't schedule their appendicitis like a family vacation and save up accordingly.

I assume Scalia was just trying to score points for his side and isn't really as stupid as his comment implies. I could, of course, be wrong.

Steve Buchheit said...

Eric, I believe with was Justice Scalia who also made the comment about parental consent in abortion saying, "The worst case scenario of if a girl is in the hospital and says she wants an abortion and the father says not to." When we know the actual worst case scenario is when the father says, "It's also my baby."

So, I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here. My guess is this is actually how he views how healthcare is delivered in this country. That you're pretty well and don't have a lot of expenses for it until you're old. It's a common myth. One of the stories we tell ourselves.