The Trickiest Part of Universal Health Care

Health insurance is not like other insurance. Take fire insurance. Chances are, your house will never burn down. But you pay a little bit each month so that if you should be the unlucky one, you will have the cash to move on with your life.

Health insurance is different. Sure, you are protecting against disaster, but it’s not if you will have a health disaster, it’s when. We will all of us get sick. So sick we might die. It’s just a matter of time. Health insurance is about all of us putting our resources together so the sick people can get better without bankrupting themselves.

For this plan to work, healthy people need to pay into the system. The Affordable Care Act, lovingly known as Obamacare, tries to force healthy people into the system by taxing them if they don’t have insurance. This is not popular, and I’m not surprised. The new plan proposed by the Republicans does away with that, replacing it with an even more ill-advised penalty for coming back.

The core of the problem is this: Your insurance is only as good as the group of people in your pool. If you’re in a pool with lots of young, healthy people, your costs are low. The insurance companies have been slicing us into literally thousands of pools, and have made rules to keep people who are already sick out of any pool at all.

Both ACA and the new Republican plan miss the point. The problem is not how to force healthy people into the pool that has the sick people. The problem is that there are too many pools. Insurance companies make a shit-ton of money slicing and dividing us, and it’s time to come to a simple realization: we’re all in this together.

One pool.

I’m still pretty healthy, but the insurance companies don’t come a-courtin’ the way they used to. I’m sliding into the riskier part of the actuarial table. Still, I work for a company that takes care of its people, to a level I’m not allowed to talk about. I’ve got good health care, though, and my company doesn’t spend as much as it might because overall its employees are a pretty good pool.

Chances are, I’d be on the losing end if all the pools were united, but I’m OK with that. More than OK. Excited at the idea. Excited that the emergency rooms across the nation won’t be clogged with people who needn’t have been there if they had access to basic care. Excited that maybe some of the homeless I pass each day on my bicycle may be able to get the care they need and, yes, get a fucking job.

Side note: the phrases “Get a fucking job, you bum!” and “They took our jobs!” often come out of the same mouth.

So let’s get back to the basics and realize that the offerings of both parties fail to understand the core of the problem. It’s not about pushing people into a pool that’s disadvantageous to them, it’s about getting rid of all the goddam pools.

One pool.

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


When does School Let Out?

Recently I was riding on a path and ahead of me was a small bank of flood-deposited sand and gravel. It looked pretty solid, so I thought I could coast gently over it and be fine.


Plunk! and a scraped-up knee, bleeding down my shin as I plodded on to work. “Lesson learned!” I thought to myself. “Unless you have big, fat tires, that’s not the terrain for you.” So at the expense of a little flesh I became a wiser bicyclist.

Yesterday morning I was riding calmly through a little park. Many people walk their dogs on those paths, and I like to give dogs plenty of space when I come up behind them. It’s not fair to the dog to expect them to just step calmly aside when startled from behind. So when the human walking a pretty bulldog didn’t respond to my bell, I did what I often do: I left the sidewalk and circled around on the grass. I made a point of giving him a cheery “Good morning!” as I slogged through the lush lawn.

Only, this particular time, the deep green hid the fact that the step back up to the pavement was rather high. I hit it at too soft an angle, didn’t hop with my front tire, and spilled over the handlebars and onto the pavement. Plunk!

My OTHER knee is now scraped up, and I have a nasty contusion on my thigh where it hit the headlight attached to my handlebars. Lesson learned: Always assume that transition will be dangerous unless handled properly. So at the expense of a little flesh I am now a wiser bicyclist.

I just hope I reach the end of the syllabus soon.