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December 19, 2006

Mr. Derbyshire, Dr. Klein Will See You Shortly

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Two of today's offerings from John Derbyshire of the National Review:

My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That's an increase of 81 percent.  ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T***  Can they do that?  I called them.  They sound pretty confident they can.  Ye gods!

Can't really talk about this, I'm still in shock.  But yes, anyone who says right now that our entire health-care financing system is nuts to the fourth power, won't be getting any argument from me.  And from a social-libertarian point of view, the thing is pernicious, as it strongly discourages individuality & enterprise.  As is the case with the tax code, the message you get loud and clear is that the govt. wants us all to be employees so we can be tax-farmed more easily. Strike out on your own, step off that corporate hamster-wheel, and you get socked with sudden 81 percent hikes in your health-care premiums. Hoo-ee.

December 19, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

Hey, he's figured out that our health care system penalizes people who start their own companies, and small business in general. Give it time, he'll come back to his senses.

Posted by: mwg | Dec 19, 2006 10:31:26 PM

Inside Derbyshire's brain:

"The system obviously makes no sense...I am personally being hurt by the failure of the system...Republicans want to maintain the system, while Democrats claim they want to change it...what can I say about it that will somehow blame Democrats?

(think think think think)

Aha! Big government liberals want insurance to be tied to one's status as an employee, so that one won't become an entrepreneur! Because...liberals hate capitalism! That must be it! It can't be that big business wants its employees to be tied to their jobs!"

Derbyshire is THIS CLOSE to making sense on this issue. This close!

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Dec 19, 2006 10:32:57 PM

"And not only do liberals hate capitalism...but...liberals love to spend government money! Which means they love to collect taxes! Which means that...

(hmmmm...this is a tough one...how on earth can I blame tax-and-spend liberals for this? I may have painted myself into a corner here)

...Aha! If everyone is an employee of a big corporation that can afford health insurance...and therefore everyone has up-to-date employment records...then liberals can find people and collect taxes more easily! I did it! I blamed liberals!"

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Dec 19, 2006 10:36:00 PM

How many people going uninsured and without adequate healthcare -- and now it matters, because his premiums have gone up more than he considers acceptable.

My fiance's employer's insurance will at least accept me, but with a one-year exclusion period due to preexisting condition (as opposed to altogether exclusion, at least), during which time we pay the added premium -- my premium, is over double his alone, meaning our total premium is almost triple what it was before I was added -- and I don't get any coverage. My medication, which allows me to at least be moderately functional (you know, able to shower regularly and prepare my meals) costs hundreds of dollars a month, which we will continue to pay. I've seen my specialist twice in the past three years, as opposed to the every 2-3 months I'm supposed to see him for checkups. Etc.

But people only tend to realize that, uh, things really suck when it hits their own pocketbook, I suppose.

I guess I should see such a realization that things are screwed up on his part as a good thing -- the sooner the people wake up and see the reality of this issue, the better.

Posted by: Amanda | Dec 19, 2006 10:58:02 PM

Yes, well, duh to the whole punish small businesses and the self employed. Who didn't know that?

Posted by: akaison | Dec 19, 2006 11:05:29 PM

"Can they do that?", he asks incredulously. Why do I get the feeling that he really means "Can they do that to me?"

Those conservatives never gets it until it happens to them and theirs. This is why I think the Donald Vance story, if it gets the right breaks, can move public opinion from it's current inertia on detainee rights issues in a way that the guantanamo scandal and Mahar Arar case never can -- if it can happan to white, non muslim, non criminal Vance, it could happen to anyone.

Posted by: battlepanda | Dec 20, 2006 2:47:20 AM

Just an off-topic question here: do you have to be married or betrothed in the US to get acces to your partner's health scheme?

Because Mr.Derbyshire's colleague at the National Review Stanley Kurtz loves to point his gay-bashing finger at out-of-wedlock births in Europe (it's because of teh gay, you see), while all that's happening is that more Europeans choose to have babies first, weddings later.

For European parents, a 30.000 dollar wedding is just a 30.000 dollar expenditure. Nice, but chances are that other stuff will be more pressing. But what if such a 30.000 dollar expenditure also leads parents to save hundreds of dollars on premiums, taxes etc.?

Could this explain why Americans get hitched at more tender age than Europeans do?

Posted by: jasper emmering | Dec 20, 2006 4:33:42 AM

"And from a social-libertarian point of view, the thing is pernicious, as it strongly discourages individuality & enterprise... Strike out on your own, step off that corporate hamster-wheel, and you get socked with sudden 81 percent hikes in your health-care premiums."

But I thought it was good libertarianism to let insurance companies charge what the market can bear?

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Dec 20, 2006 4:58:45 AM

Amanda | Dec 19, 2006 7:58:02 PM

But people only tend to realize that, uh, things really suck when it hits their own pocketbook, I suppose.

Such is the nature of a conservative.

Posted by: raj | Dec 20, 2006 5:14:55 AM

The strange part is that Derbyshire is in NY, which has community rating (so the increase shouldn't be driven by underwriting changes) and very high minimum coverages (so it shouldn't be driven by a change in covered benefits). IOW, this kind of year-on-year jump is happening in a state who's plan is already pretty close to the Wyden plan.

Does anyone with more knowledge of the NY market know what's happening?

Posted by: SamChevre | Dec 20, 2006 8:03:24 AM

What makes Derbyshire interesting is that he appears to have materialized in America straight from mid-19th century England. So, he's a raging racist, but he thinks his racism is upheld by "science", and he's actually willing to change his mind based on empirical evidence. He believes strongly that white heterosexual men deserve true equality and freedom, protected by the state, and so he opposes breaches of civil liberties, and he's coming toward some moderate left economic policies. He's utterly reprehensible, but nonetheless fascinating to watch.

Posted by: DivGuy | Dec 20, 2006 9:18:38 AM

But I thought it was good libertarianism to let insurance companies charge what the market can bear?

I don't see why Derbyshire needs insurance at all. Whenever he needs bypass surgery or knee replacement or fracture repair or whatever, why can't just solicit competitive bids for the work, and then choose the best offer? It's like he doesn't have faith in the beauty of markets.....

Posted by: sglover | Dec 20, 2006 9:19:03 AM

Brad DeLong nails it:

You see, John, there is this thing called the "market." People who want to buy health insurance--that's you, John--look for people who want to sell health insurance, and when you find one and agree on a price you make a "transaction." This is a voluntary exchange. Both sides to do it. The health insurer has just told a customer that they want to charge you not $5,668 for next year but rather $10,284. If the customer doesn't like that price, the customer should look for another health insurer.

Now we liberals have lots of reasons and arguments for why we would not expect free markets in health insurance to work very well, and Derbyshire has just encountered one of them: it looks as if his particular health plan is entering an adverse-selection death spiral.

Posted by: theophylact | Dec 20, 2006 10:01:45 AM

This is something that happens when faith meets reality - when faith in the Invisible Hand and Free Markets and Capitalism meets the reality of capitalism and the free market. Something has to get shaken, and since reality is pretty darn immovable, its usually the faith that gets shaken pretty hard.

I've seen it happen - hell, my first couple of Econ classes in college were enough to shake my faith in Free Markets despite the fact that the profs acted like Believers and taught that way (it doesn't really take a genius to see what the basic premises of a free market applied to health care, education or justice will do to a society in the long term).

Posted by: NonyNony | Dec 20, 2006 10:45:06 AM

The guy is just in the wrong plan. He needs to go shopping. There are plenty of individual health plans available in New York that provide catastrophic-coverage-only, and give you that much-lauded personal responsibility for things like office visits (around $100 a pop) and prescriptions, which is about the only expenses 80 percent of us incur in a typical year.

He just needs to do a little shopping with a decent agent, and I'm sure he'll find a plan in the $100 a month range.

Posted by: Rick | Dec 20, 2006 10:57:44 AM

uhm- I live in NYC- have had to shop around for plans- and no, there are no 100 dollar month plans here.

Posted by: akaison | Dec 20, 2006 11:50:15 AM

OK, let's see if I can put this in a useful way: This is why we've been calling this the Health Care Crisis.

The richmiddle-class white dude can pay $900/month, presumably. Most people can't. And even when people have coverage, the insurance company will drop them at the first possible opportunity. See, for example, the fact that more than half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are because of medical expenses.

And more than punishing small business and entrepreneurs, this state of affairs actually hurts big companies, too. Think GM doesn't look at the extra $5 grand a year they've gotta pay per employee for health insurance and wish we'd charge them half that in taxes for national health care? A tax that was a result of their profits (or revenue, or whatever), rather than the number of workers?

Solving this problem will benefit everybody and every thing in this country, except the health insurance industry. And the Wyden plan doesn't solve that issue.

Posted by: sasha | Dec 20, 2006 12:08:43 PM

I live in NYC, and the best option I found is the Freelancers Union. I think pretty much anyone qualifies. I only have to worry about myself (no wife or kids), but for about $200/mo I get pretty decent coverage. There are other plans that include dependents and more robust coverage, and if I recall they were not that expensive.

And I just received notice that the monthly bill will rise exactly $0.00 for 2007.

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 20, 2006 1:25:57 PM

No freelancers is for graphic designers, filmmakers, musicians, and other creative arts types. My friend, an indie art director, has that plan. Its also higher than 200 a month- like 230 amonth, and the plan from when he asked me to look it over was only so-so. Its an okay plan, but at 200/mo it is still priced high. I did some checking,a nd plan I am under per person is going up an average of 10 percent next year. Still way beyond inflation.

Posted by: akaison | Dec 20, 2006 1:32:14 PM

What odds on the Derb opting for the British Expat Health Insurance Policy: that is, an open-ended one-way ticket back to the UK?

Do the wingnut welfare orgs (AEI, Heritage, etc) have healthcare plans? I've always wondered whether the 'affiliations' of political opinionators are more to do with collective benefits, given that freelancers have the most problems in a system built upon employer-based healthcare.

What makes Derbyshire interesting is that he appears to have materialized in America straight from mid-19th century England.

Or the Daily Telegraph's letters page.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Dec 20, 2006 2:28:25 PM

"There are plenty of individual health plans available in New York that provide catastrophic-coverage-only, and give you that much-lauded personal responsibility for things like office visits (around $100 a pop) and prescriptions, which is about the only expenses 80 percent of us incur in a typical year."

How bout the other 20% of us? Flushed out the airlock I guess. Enjoy your good fortune.

Posted by: RW | Dec 20, 2006 11:01:17 PM

Huh?

(To RW).

Rick is saying that there are cat-only plans available--which means that the 80% of people with only routine expenses get no benefits whatsoever from them. The other 20%? They are the ones that NEED catastrophic coverage, and so DO get benefits.

But Rick--it was my impression that cat-only plans were not legally available in NY?

Posted by: SamChevre | Dec 21, 2006 8:20:44 AM

Oh gotcha. Woops. My bad

Posted by: RW | Dec 21, 2006 10:16:27 AM

Yes, Mr. Derbyshire. It must be liberals fault that your health care is so expensive. It must be liberals who want people too scared for their welfare to innovate, and certainly not those saintly corporations who would never do anything to reduce competition. Back in the day in the real world, corporations actually fought to keep healthcare employer-based, because they knew it would be another hook in their employees; only now, as the system becomes heinously expensive to them, do they want out.

Working in individual insurance, I know that insurers employ a lot of dirty tricks to flush out sick people. First, since (at least in WI) you can't drop people or give them rates not based on claims usage of the entire plan, they start new plans with lower rates every few years. The healthy people will pass underwriting and move to the new plan, unhealthy people will be stuck on the old plan...sending the average claims usage rates on the old plan skyrocketing, meaning the rates are now allowed to skyrocket as well. Individual health insurance sucks for customers.

I think it was Ezra who dropped the following gem on us: if a conservative is a liberal who got robbed, a liberal is a conservative who got sick.

Posted by: Kylroy | Dec 21, 2006 1:24:32 PM

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