Thursday, February 3, 2011

What about the Children?

If you missed part one or part two on this topic, I'd suggest going back and reading them first.

A few people have asked about children's rights to health care. Shouldn't the government provide for them, since they can't provide for themselves? I think the real question here is not "shouldn't kids have health insurance" but "shouldn't kids be provided with adequate medical care", which isn't the same thing. There are children without insurance who get good medical care, and there are children with insurance who do not.

But let's tackle the health insurance for kids question. Should the government provide medical benefits for kids up to age 18?

Actually, in many cases, they already do.

We can basically divide all the kids in the U.S. into two groups; those whose parents can afford health insurance and those whose parents cannot. We already have government funded free health care for all those kids whose parents are unable to afford private health care, and believe me, the income requirements are very generous. There are also state-funded health insurance plans in every state.

Then there are the children whose parents can afford to cover their health care expenses. Most of these parents do just that, leaving us with a very small slice of the under 18 population who truthfully go without health insurance. Let's look at that slice. Why would a parent who could afford to give their child health insurance decide not to do it?

There are two reasons an able parent would make that choice. One reason would be that the parent has made an informed decision not to do so.

Take, for example, a friend of mine. This friend far prefers natural health care to traditional modern medicine. She is not a loony, she is very intelligent and well-read and, believe me, she has done her homework. When her son is sick, for the most part, she treats him at home. If he needs to go to a doctor, she prefers to take him to a naturopathic or homeopathic doctor.

The problem with health care, for her, is that most health care plans don't cover naturopathic or homeopathic doctors. She is self-employed, so the cost for her to purchase insurance is ridiculously high. And if she does fork out the $600-900 every month for insurance, it won't even cover the type of care she wants. It makes much more sense for her to set aside money every month and pay out of pocket to go to the doctor she wants to see.

Other self-employed parents fall into the same situation, even if they prefer traditional modern medicine. It makes far more sense for some families to invest money every month to cover medical expenses, than to purchase high-priced medical insurance.

Obviously, any parent who goes this route runs the risk that someday their child will develop cancer or some other terrible disease, with bills running easily into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One solution to this would be to purchase catastrophic health insurance.

The second reason a parent would decide not to buy health insurance for their children is less noble; they don't want to. There are certainly families out there who are without health insurance because mom and dad would rather spend that money on something else.

Passing a government sponsored health plan that covers these kids (the ones whose parents can afford to do it themselves, but don't) would require passing new taxes to pay for the program. This would be unpopular, but well within Congress' constitutional powers. Unfortunately, it would be ridiculously expensive, and it wouldn't really help things.

The parents who don't want to go to traditional doctors wouldn't take advantage of the plan, and the ones who don't want to pay for it would see it as affirmation that their selfishness is okay, encouraging them to let 'someone else' handle things for them. This culture would be passed on to their children, who, come adulthood, would simply hold their hands out and expect the government to take care of them, too.

Another thought would be to pass a law mandating parents to purchase health care for their children, if not for themselves. I've already made my point about mandating commerce, but in this case it might be akin to requiring parent's to put their children in car seats. The adult has the choice to wear a seatbelt, but the child does not. The child hasn't the ability to make an informed decision about the seatbelt, and the law is in place to protect him.

This might be a solution. Then, like with immunizations, the parents could choose to opt out for religious, spiritual, or other reasons (the desire to use natural medicine, for example). Or folks could self-insure (prove they had the financial capacity to cover their own expenses). This would be cumbersome and expensive to enact. It would raise taxes to pay for a brand new government agency dedicated to policing people's medical choices.

I, for one, would feel us slide one step closer to a government that controls our every action.

More later, but I've got to Lysol my keyboard. This virus has got us all but knocked out.. hope everyone else is feeling better than I am. 


  1. yes, you made many great points. i will have to review my own feelings. i do see some minor adjustments coming my way. thanks!