Steve G.

The great dilemma: Health insurance or Broadway tickets?

In Media, Personal Responsibility on August 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Al Jazeera is always good for laugh in its coverage of US social issues, and the Middle Eastern news outlet didn’t fail to deliver with this latest piece on US health care.

Meet one Gibson Glass, a Manhattanite who is too poor to afford health insurance:

Gibson Glass, 58, enjoys his jogs though New York City’s Central Park.

But he is not just running for fun. Gibson is one of more than 40 million Americans who does not have health insurance.

So, for Gibson, regular exercise is a form of health insurance. He is a freelance picture framer, and he says he simply cannot afford to pay about $600 each month on insurance.

He says that the United States’ healthcare system is “totally messed up” because, as he puts it, “everybody should be able to afford health insurance, whatever their income, and I have a pretty good income, I just can’t afford it.”

Gibson has worked out the odds and is making a rational decision, based on his circumstances.

Poor guy. Surely he’s scrimping every penny and living on the edge, right?

In the meantime, he would rather spend his precious money on going to the theatre and concerts and seeing friends for dinner.

These are things that give his life quality, and, as he says, “make him a healthier person”.

Oh.

So he chooses to live in the most expensive borough of the most expensive city in the country and instead of purchasing health insurance, he’s going to regularly purchase Broadway tickets (which are about $150 on average), dine out in Manhattan’s Zagat-rated restaurants with friends, and see Liza Minnelli in concert.

And if he *does* get sick after living this life of luxury in the playground of the wealthy known as Manhattan, he’s going to hand the bill to those of us who cannot afford to live in Manhattan, feast at Zagat-rated bistros, or enjoy the latest musical starring Mario Lopez.

I know many whiny people who earn decent incomes yet claim they “cannot afford health care.” All of them are just like Mr. Glass — they have sufficient income to purchase insurance just like the rest of us, but they instead prefer to spend the money on luxuries like iPhones with high-end service contracts, concerts, meals out, new cars, and vacations. No, they’re going to buy the luxuries and pass the bill for the necessities on to you and me.

Too bad this “inconvenient truth” has yet to be inserted into the Great Healthcare Debate.

Meanwhile, Gibson, it’s time to move to New Jersey, get a room-mate, learn to cook, rent some Broadway DVDs, and pay your own damn health insurance bill.

Hat tip to Delaware Libertarian for the pointer to the article.

  1. Taking care of yourself is the best health insurance. If you minimize your risk of major health problems like cancer and heart disease, you shouldn’t need insurance. You could simply pay for your health care costs as needed. In fact, if government involvement in health care were decreased, those costs would go down, and health insurance would be even less necessary.

    It is people like this that show why we need to take personal responsibility for our health care. If you are stupid enough not to save money for health care costs, especially if you are not insured, you have to face the consequences.

    If you genuinely need charity, private charities can help you with your health care costs. A member of my family accepted money from a hospital’s financial aid program for an unexpected emergency when we weren’t insured. We intend to donate to that program so that it can help more people in situations like that.

    Finally, many progressives in this country call health care a right. Health care is no more a right than food, shelter, or any other need. It is a need, but it is not a right. It is not the government’s responsibility to grant needs. Government should protect your right to meet your own needs as you see fit. It should not provide for them. Could you imagine if the federal government tried to provide for all of our needs? I doubt a program trying to provide health care for 300 million people with no competitive incentive could serve so many needs without major failures.

  2. Although Brian is probably correct, or at least close to the mark, in his inferences, I should point out that Manhattan has many different neighborhoods, ranging from very rich to very poor. Here is a little bit about the neighborhood I grew up in, near the northern tip of Manhattan.

    http://www.wellesley.edu/Chemistry/Chem101/war/html%20pages/ny-heights-crime.html

    Also, Manhattan has numerous fast food joints and greasy spoon diners; far from all eateries on the island are of the Zagat rated variety.

    And not all theatrical productions are on Broadway; some are off, off-off, and off-off-off Browadway, and many of these cost significantly less than the big shows.

    Although jogging in Central Park increases the chances that Brian’s inferences are accurate – most neighborhoods around Central Park are on the wealthy side, except at its northern end, and even that area is much gentrified since back when I lived there; I’m assuming he doesn’t take the subway to a park in a different part of town to jog, although you never know.

  3. Yikes, maybe an ol’ spendthrift like myself might just make it after all.

  4. The individual in this story is making a rational, if immoral by libertarian standards, decision.

    Brian Miller expects everyone to adopt libertarian morality against the statist idoctrination and statist temptations. He never blames the system that makes this choice not only possible, but RATIONAL. Nor is there any criticism for the government intervention that makes healthcare several fold more expensive than it would be otherwise. It’s always blame the victim with him and other libertine elitists.

  5. Oh, but Mr. Miller is quick to insist that non-married people should subsidize the healthcare benefits of his domestic partner.

    “PHILLIES 2012 – THE STATE IS GREAT!”

  6. Seagraves/”GE” is completely insane.

    I’ve not called for a single one of his weird contentions.

    As for all the lecturing about morality, you should stay off the heavy shit, dude. It makes you rant.

  7. Although jogging in Central Park increases the chances that Brian’s inferences are accurate – most neighborhoods around Central Park are on the wealthy side, except at its northern end, and even that area is much gentrified since back when I lived there

    The average 1 BR condominium in Harlem (the worst part of Manhattan bordering Central Park) costs over $700K.

    That would buy one about 10 2 BR rowhomes in an up-and-coming part of West Philadelphia.

  8. I am pretty much opposed to health insurance. I feel that the whole existence of the health insurance industry and it’s relationship with the government is one of the biggest problems with the “health care” situation.

    It also really bothers me when people misrepresent insurance as “care.” Not affording or simply CHOOSING not to participate in an insurance system does not mean one cannot pay for care. Doctors gladly accept cash, check, or credit. For many individuals paying several hundred dollars a month for insurance can be very irrational- especially if they are healthy and might visit the doctor once or twice a year. In that case the cash price is probably a couple hundred bucks, not several thousand. To me “health care” means whether you can receive medical treatment, not if you have ( often unnecessary) insurance. And just about anyone can receive any routine medical treatment he needs with or without insurance.

    However, we have several things in play. 1 being government’s involvement and health benefits being connected to employment ( where certain companies are given advantages). This is also related to the tax issue of withholding. In many jobs, “free” health insurance has been standard and expected for a long time. Employees don’t really consider the costs because they have been conditioned to only really care about their “net” pay and/or consider “benefits” as being as or more important than their cash compensation. They then see actually spending their after tax money on “health care” as outrageous.

    Then you have the expectation of what I would call “everything including the oil change” insurance for “free.” many occupations and certainly those in many labor unions have long enjoyed 100% employer-paid, no or low deductible, low or no co-pay comprehensive insurance. In other words “health care” with no out of pocket costs. Then when/if something happens where they have to shop for their own, they just have to have the highest premium service.

    The guy in the article is much older than I am, and I don’t live in his state. So maybe his insurance really would be that high. However, I know I could buy individual health insurance for around 30 bucks a month. Of course that has a high deductible, but IMO that’s the way it SHOULD be. I don’t think it makes sense to insurance against common everyday ailments or routine needs. I insure against catastrophic illness or emergency that could cause financial devastation. I look at the total out of pocket costs with premium, deductibles,etc and max coverages. I don’t buy insurance for a cold ( I dont go to a doctor at all for that), a routine checkup that my doctor will gladly perform for a reasonable fee, or for prescriptions that most places sell for less than the copay anyway.

    That said, I do have a policy for a family of 4. I lived without it when I was single and uninsured through my 20s. I write my own check out for it every month ( AND usually do the same when we actually use health care since the deductible is high). It’s a painful check to write every month but I made a choice that it was a priority. I pay less for my family than what is quoted here for this one guy. I suspect it’s because his/the writer’s definition of “health care” is the “everything including free oil change” coverage.

    This guy is making a rational choice for sure. The problem is he’s the one complaining about his own choices and for some reason i doubt he is complaining about the ACTUAL reasons for the high cost of healthcare. Not easy to assume, but he’s probably taking the socialist line that we need Universal or at least way more government involvement. He should just tell the truth and say he can afford it, but it is not something he values. People pay for things they think are important and rational. Maybe he doesn’t, but it’s not because he’s “poor.” He even says he makes a good income. He accepts all the positives to being self-employed but doesn’t accept the tradeoff and fully come around to being fully personal responsible for his own health.

    However ( while I have certainly made my own assumptions) I think bmiller’s characterization of this guy as stiffing everyone else is baseless. If he is choosing to go without insurance, that does not mean he cannot or will not pay his doctor bills ” if he gets sick.” Not paying insurance premiums does not mean he will not pay a bill. There are plenty of reasons he probably would- ethical ( personal moral obligation not to be a deadbeat), financial( an unpaid doctor’s bill sent to collections can ruin a credit rating for 7 years), and he “has a good salary.” I also don’t think people who choose to not insure or self-insure are “passing the bill” to people who choose to purchase insurance or are fortunate to work for the “right” employer. If anything people who participate in the comprehensive insurance racket are the ones raising the prices for people who choose to pay their own bills.

  9. Seagraves/”GE” is completely insane.

    I’ve not called for a single one of his weird contentions.

    As for all the lecturing about morality, you should stay off the heavy shit, dude. It makes you rant.

    I just felt like mixing it up with you, Brian.

    That desire has been sated.

    Carry on.

  10. Brian/GE,

    You boys should get a room.

  11. I think bmiller’s characterization of this guy as stiffing everyone else is baseless. If he is choosing to go without insurance, that does not mean he cannot or will not pay his doctor bills ” if he gets sick.”

    My point is that he’s demanding a state-mandated, taxpayer funded “solution” to his “health problems” that allows him to carry on his lifestyle as he wishes to live it, rather than making his own choices (and abiding the consequences — good and bad — of those choices).

    By demanding taxpayer-funded medical care rather than funding it himself, he is indeed seeking to stiff the rest of us and hand us the bill for his care so that he can enjoy musicals, meals out, theatre, etc.

    You boys should get a room.

    Uh, ew.

    You must be on the same shit that GE’s on.

  12. The average 1 BR condominium in Harlem (the worst part of Manhattan bordering Central Park) costs over $700K.

    That would buy one about 10 2 BR rowhomes in an up-and-coming part of West Philadelphia.

    Well, a lot’s changed in 18 years.

    In 1990, when my mom moved out of New York to rejoin my dad (this time in Alabama), she was paying around $450 a month for a three bedroom apartment in Washington Heights, which is very similar to Harlem in its economic demographics.

  13. Well, up until a couple months ago, I was one of those uninsured types… (in violation of Mass. State Law!) I wish I COULD have gotten the high-deductible insurance johncjackson was talking about earlier, but you CAN’T get it in Mass – those policies are illegal!

    Instead you are REQUIRED to pay premiums for coverages you don’t need / want, like psych services, pregnancy coverage (If I ever need that, call the Vatican, as I have a REAL miracle…) and other non-useful stuff… The result is that even the “high deductible, minimum coverage” policies are several hundred $’s per month…

    I think NY has similar restrictive rules on the sorts of policies you can purchase…

    ART

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