One day, perhaps when our society matures a bit more; perhaps when we’re ready to remove our ideological blinders, for just a moment; perhaps one day, we can ask ourselves a very basic question: Is there ever a time when profit is a bad thing?
My answer might not be as clear-cut as one might think. For example, I doubt the computer I’m typing this on would be as user-friendly if it weren’t for the profit motive. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the need to put shareholders above all else, it most likely would have been manufactured in the US, in a union shop, under humane conditions.
For small businesses, profit is a wonderful thing. I don’t begrudge my favorite restaurant their huge markup on food. I pay for the experience of eating there. I help support the local community by helping them purchase food, helping them pay their staff, and with my tip.
However, as we are beginning to see living standard inequities that rival the gilded age, it’s becoming increasingly clear that for some industries, not only does the need for profit put money over people, it is very literally putting money over lives. There is perhaps no industry more emblematic of that dire reality than the insurance industry, and GOP Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ) admitted it when in a debate, he defended the rights of insurance companies to not insure people with pre-existing conditions. From Think Progress:
If individuals are allowed to access health care services only when they are sick or injured, there is no reason for anyone to have insurance. If insurance companies are required to accept all pre-existing conditions, insurance is no longer insurance.
That was the time to ask the questions that never get asked.
- So what if insurance is no longer insurance? Do we need insurance or do we just need a pool, one in which everyone contributes, one in which everyone is covered in case of illness and there is no profit?
- If insurance companies shouldn’t be required to cover everyone, why, in most cases, is insurance the only way for a person under the age of 65 to get medical care?
- If a sick person racks up bills in six and even seven figures, isn’t the resulting bankruptcy a burden to the system?
- Don’t you feel morally obligated to, as a society, heal the sick?
- Why are the terms “health insurance” and “health care” used interchangeably? Has a health insurance company ever healed anyone? Has a health insurance company ever offered health care? In fact, aren’t they in the business of denying health care? Aren’t insurance companies the true death panels? Ask your constituents, Congressman Flake, how many hours of their lives they’ve spent arguing with insurance companies, asking them to pay for tests, treatments and procedures that their doctor feels are necessary.
- If I am lucky enough to have health insurance, what should I be able to expect from paying thousands of dollars a year? Is it okay that they take my money and give me absolutely nothing in return, simply because they find out that I had acne as a teenager? Isn’t that thievery?
- If you believe the fetus has the right to life, don’t you believe that it has a right to necessary medical treatment?
- If you believe in the right to life, don’t you believe it should extend outside the womb?
- Would you be willing to give up your health insurance if you or a member of your family got sick?
- Are profits more important than your constituents?
I’m not inflexible. I have no problem with the mere existence of insurance companies. If someone chooses to have insurance, they should have that right. If insurance companies want to offer something above and beyond reasonable health care, that’s fine too. Let the wealthy have their private rooms and spa-like atmosphere. Let those with the “Cadillac” insurance plans have access to the most élite specialists. All we’re asking for is healthcare and no, we aren’t asking for it to be free.