Question about healthcare.

Here’s a question I’d be interested in responses about. Liberals/Democrats often complain that we don’t have “Universal Healthcare” in the US. I think the accepted definition of this is “free healthcare for everyone provided by the government” and of course the government is funded by taxpayers (us). Smoking accounts for a significant percentage of this country’s health care costs each year (8% of an individual’s health care costs – tens of billions of dollars according to

So, my question is this. If we the taxpayers were to start paying for one another’s health care, do we have the right to demand that the people we’re paying for not smoke? I don’t smoke, is it fair that I pay for the health care of someone who does? Or, assuming we do have the right to demand people not smoke (presumably by making it illegal, since healthcare becomes a federal government program) what else can we make illegal? Eating at McDonald’s? Football? Skydiving?

Obviously when we start making things illegal, we start to trample on civil liberties, which is something liberals typically stand up for (as do I). So, I guess the answer is, under universal health care it is expected that people who go to the gym and eat right must pay the health care costs of people who don’t take care of themselves. Is that right?

7 thoughts on “Question about healthcare.

  1. Like you pointed out, where does it end? Drinking alcohol harms your health. Living in smog infested areas harms your health. Not consuming antioxidants can be harmful to health. If you don’t eat your vegetables, we won’t pay for your healthcare? Right now, under your health care plan, presumably you pay the same premium that anyone else with your health plan pays. By paying your health insurance premium, are you not paying for other people’s health in one way or another? How does that change when the government administers it? You can’t demand that people who use your insurance company not smoke, right?

    Also, why am I the only person that warrants an explanation on your blog links? I don’t know who those other people are but when I scroll over their names it gives me no explanation. Apparently I’m the only one who needs to be explained away! Which sounds about right.

  2. Haha… you have an explanation because you’re the only one who doesn’t have their real name up there (because I assume from the vagueness of your blog you don’t want anyone to know who you are). So, I’ve respected your internet persona and kept your alias with a short explanation.

    Anyhow… I don’t think it’s very interesting to contrast insurance companies with the government. Insurance companies are only marginally private organizations… they are so heavily regulated that they’re only a few steps away from being the government. I’m pretty sure if an insurance company wanted to say “we won’t insure smokers” someone would find that discrimanatory and/or in violation of a regulation. So, due to that, you’re right that to some extent right now we’re paying for people who live unhealthily.

    I think it would be more interesting to contrast a totally free market for medicine versus a totally socialized one, I think. If one chooses to be a model of health, eating all-natural foods, not smoking, working out daily, etc. they don’t have the option to buy a cheaper insurance plan than the next person right now. However, obviously, that sounds like it should be the ideal to me… striving to be further from socialized medicine rather than nearer to it.

  3. I dont have any kids yet I pay some of highest taxes in the state to send a bunch of other people’s kids to school. . . does this mean I can demand that they stop sending them?

  4. You calling me boring? I was looking at this from how I understand healthcare is currently administered. If we want to talk economic theory, I think you’re right. It seems that, like car insurance, maybe health insurance needs to be structured on risks and behaviors that we can identify – safety measures, amount of use, age, and gender. However, there are plenty of things we cannot account for in regards to the economics of individual health – genetics, income, environment, etc. And I disagree with your fundamental assumption that ‘universal’ healthcare has to mean ‘free’ healthcare.

  5. To Schulte’s point – it’s a little bit extreme (although I’m not totally against it) to think that schools can all be privatized, because I think there’s at least a decent argument for the fact that you benefit from having an educated populus. If people weren’t going to school, they’d be tough to hire, even for crappy work like gas station attendants. In all likelihood gas stations would have to pay to send people for basic training in stuff like arithmetic and basic english, which would mean more money at the pumps and on and on. It’s not a rock solid argument, but it holds up to some modicum of sense so I don’t lose any sleep over sending kids to school. Plus I like the idea of at least trying to give kids a “fair shot” and am personally willing to bend towards socialism for that cause. I’ll pay for another persons kids to go to school. I feel like it benefits me.

    And no Allison, I mean womanofthelaw, I’m not calling you boring at all. Just calling the comparison between insurance and government less than interesting. If “universal healthcare” doesn’t mean free then I’d like to hear what it really means. If it means people who can’t afford healthcare get it for free, well that sounds kinda similar to Medicaid which we already have. If it means old people get it for free (or on the cheap) then it sounds like Medicaire which we again already have. So, I guess I’d really be interested in learing what “Universal Healthcare” is, and why Jon Stewart and Hilary Clinton keep asking for it.

  6. T, I think to answer you question, the liberal would say, you can smoke all you want and the government (read, people who work their ass off each week) will still subsidize your unhealthly lifestyle. Just as long as you don’t own a gun, because guns are bad and we don’t trust you with them. And, at least for life insurance, some insurance policies do take smoking into account (disability insurance policies do as well). That’s the way it should be, in my opinion. want a million dollar life insurance policy on the cheap–then agree not to ride a motorcycle. Your original question is why I’m afraid of government programs–that’s what would probably happen–the government would offer insurance, then insist that you not smoke (or eat unhealthy foods). Who wants that? Don’t believe me–I’ve heard that a couple of state government tried to make welfare or the amount of welfare contingent upon (i) not having more children and/or (ii) taking a drug test. I don’t like that–the answer, however, is not to eliminate the conditions (not having children/must take drug test), but to eliminate welfare (i.e., government intervention).

  7. To answer Woman’s question: “By paying your health insurance premium, are you not paying for other people’s health in one way or another? How does that change when the government administers it?” By paying insurance premiums, you are (at least nominally) paying for others’ health–but, first, it’s your choice (contrast government insurance) and people who have large families pay more (again, contrast government insurance). As to your second question, how it changes when the government changes, it changes by health care rationing and waiting lines. I don’t trust the government to pick up my trash; why should I trust it with my health?

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