Thursday, October 27, 2005

So Wal-Mart is looking for ways to cut back on how much it pays for health insurance for its workers by looking at the possibility of hiring healthier applicants, (or, as some would say, by not hiring the relatively less-healthy applicants)...

Now I know we're supposed to cry crocodile tears over this for the poor folks who won't get their dream job at Wal-Mart.... and we're supposed to wax indignation at how selfish and cold Wal-Mart is being... and we're supposed to argue that this proves that America needs a single-payer health care system... but I don't think so.

Allowing the less-healthy to obtain health insurance at the same rates as healthier people imposes a tremendous tax on everybody else. Were it not for the obese, the smokers and others who quite often are responsible for their own poor health, health insurance would be a whole lot less expensive for everybody else. For a worker who is having $100-$300 taken out of each and every paycheck to cover their share of the health insurance premiums, this tax is costing them somewhere in the ballpark of $1,500 per year. And I have no interest in forcing these workers to pay extra out of their paychecks to help pay for those who haven't been taking care of themselves.

And it imposes a tax on the company as well. Each company that is kicking in some or all of their employees health insurance premiums is hit with this tax, perhaps as much as $2,500 per worker per year. For a company with a measly 100 employees, this tax could easily be costing them as much as a quarter of a million dollars. Consider this: GM workers just had to give up a big portion of their benefit package. Would this have had to happen had GM not been required to offer health insurance to high-risk employees? Me thinks not. And GM has been cutting staff levels for years, in large part because of the high fixed costs of their employee benefit programs. Can you imagine how many more people could have still been working at GM had GM not been forced to offer health insurance to high-risk employees?

Forcing employers to offer everybody - bad health risks as well as good health risks - health insurance is a major reason so many businesses don't offer health insurance to anybody.... it's simply too expensive for them to do so. It's amazing to me, but not so surprising, that the liberals who mandate the universal coverage and risk pools that drive up the costs of health insurance to the point where it becomes unaffordable use this as an argument for even more government involvement in providing health care.

Now, I know that not everybody in poor health is (necessarily) reponsible for their bad health. But it doesn't matter. Forcing businesses to include these people in their health insurance coverage imposes a tax on the businesses, the workers who are fortunate to get health insurance, even at the ridiculously high rates, and the workers whose companies don't even give them the opportunity to get health insurance. It is a tax that none of these businesses or workers agreed to. It is a tax that none of them want. And it's a tax that they shouldn't have to pay.

Keep in mind that health insurance is not the same thing as health care. Health insurance is merely a way of paying for health care. Someone who needs medical care does not have to have health insurance. If society wants to provide health care to high-risk people, then society should do so directly, by writing the checks directly out of the Treasury and not by imposing a stealth tax on every business and worker in the country.

So if it costs $100 billion to provide health care to those in sorry health, then let the federal government write the check. Let politicians have to justify their positions on the matter come election time. Let the people decide.

My guess is that society wouldn't want to pay.... which is their option. And I wouldn't blame them.