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.

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