Careful what you wish for

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins writes about NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on BIG SODA.

I know many people who believe universal health care is a good thing. But these people also don’t take the 30 seconds required to ponder the subject beyond that nice sounding intention.

It’s not long before the very same people who pushed us to provide health care for everyone, begins to tell you how to live because they determine that your lifestyle choices are costing the rest of us too much.

As Jenkins writes:

But by the state’s own estimate, it spends $8 billion annually treating obesity-related ailments under Medicaid, which is how 40% of city residents now get their health care.

Here is the ultimate justification for the Bloomberg soft-drink ban, not to mention his smoking ban, his transfat ban, and his unsuccessful efforts to enact a soda tax and prohibit buying high-calorie drinks with food stamps: The taxpayer is picking up the bill.

The next step: If they don’t succeed in changing your lifestyle, to save us money, then they will deny you access to universal health care. After all, your choices show you are too irresponsible to deserve it.

Now, to me, that doesn’t sound any more compassionate than letting the people who made bad choices in a freer health care market figure something out, but moral and logical consistency isn’t always the strong suit of universal health care busy bodies.

So, it’s not long before you discover that universal health care is not actually universal. For the hope of not having to pay for your medical costs directly, you’ve traded your choice in the matter away to a group of busy bodies. I hope your BMI and cholesterol levels meets their approval.

But, the bigger issue for me in Jenkins article is the 40% of NYC residents on Medicaid! That’s worth a WSJ column by itself.

This is the very reason NYC is the hotbed of busy body activity — because a large percentage of the population is on government health care. So, the busy bodies rationalize their busy bodiness by wanting to save everyone money.

It’s worth asking why such a large percentage of New Yorkers are on government health care. If you guessed because of previous government interventions in the market, I believe you are correct.

New York has already placed some restrictive supply requirements, or mandates, on health insurance that has driven up insurance costs there, resulting in fewer people buying it.

One such condition requires that health insurers cover pre-existing conditions. That has driven up the cost of health insurance in New York to the point where few people can afford to buy it until they get sick. Even then, many can’t afford it, so they turn to Medicaid.

I used to compare the price of an individual health insurance plan for myself in my zip code and Manhattan. In my zip code, it would cost me $70 per month to replace the coverage I currently get through work.  In Manhattan, a similar high deductible plan goes for $345, nearly 5 times as much. You don’t want to pay deductibles? $1,075 per month or $12,900 per year.

I also notice two other things in the comparison worth mentioning. First, my zip code has 92 plans to choose from. Manhattan only has 18.

Second, New York has a type of plan that is not offered in my zip code. It only covers hospital expenses . You pay your doctor fees out-of-pocket. That is the cheapest plan offered in New York City.

It’s not hard to see why they offer such a plan. You can save about $10,000 in insurance costs with this plan. You are betting that your doctors fees will be less than that.

So, here again, we see the result of government intervention causing unintended consequences that invites even more government meddling.

Update: The Wall Street Journal did publish an editorial sharing my concern for busy bodies using government health care spending to rationalize even more intrusion (HT: Mark Perry at Carpe Diem). Here’s the key, well-worded excerpt:

But the real lesson here is that a government that pays most health-care bills will soon be dictating the everyday behavior of its people. An America that needs government to protect its citizens from 20-ounce sodas has bigger problems than obesity.

1 thought on “Careful what you wish for

  1. >> “But by the state’s own estimate, it spends $8 billion annually treating obesity-related ailments under Medicaid, which is how 40% of city residents now get their health care.”

    That’s nothing short of chilling.


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