The Common Good

Evil Insurance Company or Evil Health-Care System?

A friend sent me a link to a Washington Times article, "Insurer ends health program rather than pay out big." The subject line of my friend's e-mail was "Evil insurance company." I disagree.

It's a sad story. Ian Pearl, 37-year-old brother of novelist Matthew Pearl, "has Type II spinal muscular atrophy -- which often kills victims in infancy. He grew to adulthood only to suffer respiratory arrest at 19. He has required a tracheal tube ever since." His insurance company, Guardian Life, is "legally barred from discriminating against individuals who submit large claims." So "the New York-based insurer simply canceled lines of coverage altogether in entire states to avoid paying high-cost claims like Mr. Pearl's."

Mr. Pearl's care costs $1 million a year. Without it, he will probably die.

Why don't I think the insurance company is evil? Because a for-profit company has to watch its bottom line. It is responsible to its shareholders. It exists in order to make money. If it doesn't, it will fail; and if it fails, even more people will be uninsured.

What is evil is this: that we Americans allow our health-care system to be financed by industries that exist to make a profit. No other rich capitalist nation does this.

Many developed nations finance their health-care systems through private insurance companies. The difference is this: everywhere else, basic health insurance is required by law to be not-for-profit.

Our legislators are trying to reform health care without reforming the evil that is at the heart of our system. Until the profit motive is removed from basic health-care insurance, we will continue to read stories like Mr. Pearl's.

portrait-lavonne-neffLaVonne Neff is an amateur theologian and cook; lover of language and travel; wife, mother, grandmother, godmother, dogmother; perpetual student, constant reader, and Christian contrarian. She blogs at Lively Dust.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories


Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)