The resulting legislation is, we are told, a patchwork solution to the deepening problem of U.S. health costs.
One aspect can be comprehended, if not understood. Both sides of the House voted in favor of outlawing medical underwriting, the process by which medical insurance costs more if you are already sick. The new legislation apparently allows those who are ill to obtain coverage at exactly the same price as those who are not.
This means that insurance companies may not distinguish between customers guaranteed to cost them money and ordinary, profitable business. Land of the free? Ho ho.
When everyone agrees on something, I'm usually the odd one out. Not just because that's my job, but because when everyone agrees on something, they are usually dead wrong and dangerously wrong at that. In this case, however, the new law casts aside what was once called justice in favor of a nameless principle that I'll call "punishment for doing the right thing."
The United States has learnt this behavior from others. I'll cite two examples from millions.
In Toronto, a hard-working fellow noticed a man robbing his store. The store owner and some friends tied the villain up and sat on him until the police arrived. The cops promptly arrested the store owner, who now faces jail time for depriving the robber of his freedom. The bad guy will be granted immunity if he testifies against his victim.
In Britain, some thugs broke into a home and, bearing knives, threatened to kill the homeowner and his family. The homeowner escaped, and he and his brother returned, armed with bats. They beat the living daylights out of one of the burglars. The other burglars fled. When the cops arrived, they arrested the homeowner and his brother, who are now serving jail terms of 30 and 39 months, respectively. The burglars all went scot-free.
These decisions--no medical underwriting and punishment for the victims of brutal crimes--indicate that the social contract is ended.
The United States, United Kingdom and Canada are among the world's leading economies and societies. Yet none of them applies what was once called the rule of law, the very bedrock on which societies are built. In these countries, the difference between wrong and right has become perverted.
Hear this: If some burglar were to break into my home and threaten my family, and I had half a chance, I would beat on him with every ounce of energy I possess. I would hurt him with bats, sticks, guns, hot oil, and whatever else may come to hand. I have never hit anyone in my life, probably because I have rarely been threatened. But all you punks out there, beware. I will mutilate you beyond recognition if provoked and I will gladly do my time. By all means, go ahead and build any kind of society you like, one that rewards criminality and publishes decency; such is your privilege.
But I will fight to the death for my right to defend my loved ones. If you doubt malevolence as a driving force in the healthcare debate, consider this: smokers will pay more under the new law. Alcoholics, drug abusers and other miscreants will pay the same as good people, but law-abiding smokers will pay much more, if indeed they are able to obtain coverage.
Is there anything else you need to know about the lack of goodwill with which laws are made in the idiotic world we are constructing?
is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
February 1, 2010
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