Arnold Kling  

Are They All Orphans?

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I received some pushback on my latest health care essay, in which I argued that many of the people who are uninsured have made a choice and should live with the consequences. A reader pointed out that 9 million of the uninsured are children, and that they cannot be viewed as having made a choice to be uninsured.

But are those children all orphans? If not, then I think that their parents can be held responsible for paying for their health care. If the parents choose not to buy health insurance, then they may have to pay cash or take out a loan to pay for medical services.

Let me try to anticipate the next question: What if the parents decide to avoid sending their children for routine checkups and other necessary medical care? I am not sure about the best answer, but offering medical services at taxpayers' expense is neither necessary nor sufficient to address the issue.

It strikes me that the advocates of expanding SCHIP, the Federal program that covers children, have successfully framed the issue as if the children were all orphans. This ought to go down as one of history's finest achievements in demagoguery.


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COMMENTS (12 to date)
william boot writes:

I see your point but it could twist on a definition.

An acceptable definition of an orphan may be, a child that to all intents and purposes, is abandoned by its parents. Whether abandonment is caused by death or a willing disregard seems a moot point if you're the child.

Chuck writes:

My hunch is that the real demagoguery is pretending that the uninsured are making some kind of carefully thought through choice.

Arnold Kling writes:

"pretending that the uninsured are making some kind of carefully thought through choice."

Let's use the word "assuming" rather than "pretending." It takes the accusation of negative motivation out of it.

How would you like it if I said that you were pretending that people are better off having their choices dictated to them? It sounds like an accusation when I use the word "pretending," but if I use the word "assuming," it's merely a statement of fact.

Lord writes:

Since government has a third stake in their future earning ability, shouldn't they be responsible for at least a third of the cost? And if you really what to go libertarian, shouldn't you be telling them to die in the streets and decrease the surplus population?

Matt writes:

If you are a child the best way to beat the system is to go uninsured. After all, children have the healthiest bodies so why should children pay for us old folk when they can spend their money on more important things.

Te response is: "What about the few who do get sick?"

Well, the average child is better off, though the few who get ill do struggle. But if all children insured themselves, then on average children would be more poor and more miserable an more successible to illness.

So why to progressives want to kill off the children by making them buy uneconomical insurance?

8 writes:

Government healthcare means that your health is a socialized cost. Therefore, everyone else has a right to control your health. You can justify all sorts of control. Just pick a disease and think of the major causes.

Conversely, if someone opposes government spending, they must want people to die in the streets, because if they oppose government spending for something it means they oppose all spending on it.

Kimmitt writes:

Nah, "pretending" is right; folks who make arguments under the assumption that people are making carefully thought out, rational decisions in this area are probably aware that it isn't so.

Also, people can be better off having their choices dictated to them, if the one that's dictated to them is unavailable before the program exists. For example, I have the choice not to beat up people in the street for money dictated to me; nonetheless, I am better off, because as a result of everyone being forced to make this choice, I can live in a reasonably safe society.

Ned Ilincic writes:

Surprising how the quality of posts has slouched recently - my guess is it's because it is such an emotional topic...

"8" - can you substitute "automobiles" for "health care" and still stick to your logic: "People who oppose government buying cars for people actually want everyone to walk instead of drive."

"Kimmitt" - your first paragraph is a simple ad hominem attack of the type: "people who disagree with me are dishonest (don't ask how I know this - it's enough that they disagree)". Other than that, I believe the topic here is not choice, but costs.

Kimmitt writes:

Posted -- I can't agree; if someone argues that, given that the sky is black/white checker, proper policy is to provide polarized umbrellas to all citizens, I have to note that their premise is pretty obviously false, which raises questions as to motivation.

Michael Giesbrecht writes:

Kimmitt,

I can read this blog everyday and, over time, gain a fair understanding of Arnold Klings motivations as well as his intellectual integrity. You, on the other hand, stop in for a bit and make an ad hominem argument against Kling.

It's easy to decide who to give the benefit of the doubt.

El Presidente writes:

Yes. Yes! Let's blame the uninsured. That's more like it. Because we all know that what they really need is insurance. Not health care.

Could we please refer to Adam Smith for something other than an invisible hand? Insurance is a scam. It is a way to add a profit layer to redistribution of the costs of unpredictable events. Why do we need to pay a profit for this service? We have a nonprofit organization (our government) that is able to do this for us. Are we really going to nitpick about SCHIP?

As for demagoguery . . . I won't speak for any particular advocates. They'll have to defend themselves. I will say that if it takes demagoguery to persuade us that our money is better spent on something other than for-profit insurance, we have made it the lesser of two evils.

Why would we do that?

8 writes:

Ned Ilincic, are you agreeing or disagreeing with me? I don't doubt that if the government purchased cars on behalf of poor and lower middle class people (and middle class if we follow the SCHIP expansion), and then a politician proposed that people buy their own cars, there would be howl's of protests from people claiming that he wants to force people to walk, they can't afford cars, or he wants poor people to die in tin cans imported from China.

Pick anything you like. Opposition to government funding is always equated with being against the thing itself. Education, arts, science, school lunch, the list goes on and on.

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