POLICY: C’mon Don; how we going to fix this safety net?

So yesterday I poked a little at Don Johnson from the Businessword in an article called What’s wrong about Don Johnson? Like the sporting gent he is, Don has replied in kind. So please go over there and read it first, then come back.

As is his right (after all I had called him mean) Don was somewhat feisty in his post.  I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of invading Iraq, other than to point out that it showed that we could as a nation come up with $100bn a year  if we felt it was important. I’m not ever going to comment on Don’s lack of understanding about what it means to be left-wing–after all he didn’t have the benefit of a Cambridge education on the subject and I did! I’m not even going to say much about his desire to get all those uninsured immigrants out of the country, although for a guy who runs a parenting magazine I assume Don knows something about parents employing cheap labor as nannies– but suffice it to say that the illegal immigrants are not flooding over the border to get cheap health care (although the Canadians are seeing that phenomenon to a minor extent). I’m not even going to ask Don to explain how the government by definitively regulating the price and purchase quantity of something in a particular way when pressured into it by a strong lobbying group (in this case raising doctors fees under Medicare) is creating a "market" when the determination of price and quantity by buyers and sellers without the interference of a third party is the hallmark of a market, as understood by generations of free-market conservatives who railed at government interference from FDR’s time onwards.

Instead I’m going to pose a simple question for Don to answer. He claims the problem is that a relatively small number of people (some 7% of the population) are uninsured for a full year or more.  That is roughly true.  But what Don doesn’t mention is that over 80 million people or more than 25% of the population are uninsured for up to 4 months in a two year period. Furthermore, once you are uninsured, if you have a chronic health condition becoming insured again is very hard and very expensive. But let’s ignore all that and let’s ignore the hordes of Latin Americans overrunning our country and stealing those $4 an hour jobs from the Americans queuing up to pick vegetables and work in meat packing plants.

Instead given the current state of the market for the individual in which family insurance can run up to $1000 a month for those without health conditions, how does Don propose to enable (and force) poorer families and sicker individuals to buy insurance without giving them a subsidy (i.e. taxing someone else)? And how is that taxation different than what I suggest we need to get to universal (and compulsory) health insurance?

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