What to do with pre-existing conditions?

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I see conservatives talk on the TV and radio about the horrible calamity that is “pre-existing conditions”.

The idea is that someone gets sick, and now that their medical expenses are sky-high, they want someone else to pay for it. So they think they can convince an insurance company to start writing them checks so that they can get the medicine they need.

This whole idea is selfish and self-centered, and frankly, I have a great disrespect for anyone who thinks they are “owed” something, particularly because of the genetic code or the disease they happened to pick up.

On the one hand, many diseases are entirely preventable. If you don’t want AIDS, then don’t share needles and don’t have sexual relations outside of marriage. Yes, some people get AIDS even though they adhere to those strict rules, but the number of people who caught AIDS in this way is vanishingly small. My heart goes out to people who contract AIDS in the course of their work since they work with people exposed to AIDS. But the fact of the matter is no one forced them to take that job, and so they need to own up to the consequences of their career and life choices.

Let me explain. One time, a car crashed through our backyard fence. I went to investigate, and there was a drunk driver, his face bloody from smashing in the windshield. He wanted to run away, but the police and ambulance were already on their way. I didn’t have gloves on, but I used my hands to keep him sitting in the driver’s seat, and I may have gotten some blood on my hands. Had the man had AIDS, and had I been exposed to it and contracted it, I wouldn’t have blamed society or anything but myself. When you take upon yourself the task of helping someone else, you must also take upon yourself the responsibility for the consequences of that choice. I was willing to risk exposure to whatever diseases he had because I wanted to see to it that he could get proper medical attention (and also that he couldn’t avoid the legal consequences for drunk driving.)

If you’re not willing to take that risk, then you shouldn’t be a doctor, an EMT, or whatever else. Go do something less risky, like growing flowers or painting pictures. Leave the risky work to real grown-ups who take responsibility for their actions. Also, I should note that if you join the military, there is a good chance you might get shot by the enemy, and that is something you have to live with otherwise you shouldn’t join the military.

The key point here is many diseases are a result of our decisions, and we need to take responsibility for those decisions. We need to look out for ourselves and our loved ones, because no one else will.

There are some people who contract various diseases through literally no fault of their own. My heart goes out to them. What a terrible tragedy that is! But remember, we are all human, and all of us will eventually die, one way or the other. Maybe we get drunk and drive and crash into a tree. Maybe we are hit by a drunk driver while talking a walk with our children through the neighborhood. Either way, there is a risk to just being alive, a risk that we need to own for ourselves. Again, no one will ever care for yourself as much as you do.

Having absolved everyone else from the tragedy that befalls you, self-caused or not, let me explain what should be done about it. But first, let me explain what should not be done about it.

We should not impose tyrannical rules and regulations on the economy. The only kinds of rules and regulations on the economy that should exist are those that make the economy function more smoothly and effectively. See, the economy is the golden goose, and wealth is the golden eggs it lays every morning. Can you make the golden goose lay more eggs by making a law requiring it to do so? What if you punished the golden goose for not laying more eggs? Will it lay eggs? Every time you put some kind of restriction on the golden goose, you risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. And as the farmer who slaughtered his only golden goose found out, a dead goose won’t lay any eggs at all. The only types of rules we should write are rule that protect the golden goose or make the golden goose’s life easier, provided the golden goose continues to lay the golden eggs.

In more concrete terms, let’s look at two kinds of regulations.

One regulations says, “1 kg is exactly this much weight.” This might limit someone else’s freedom to say what they wish, particularly if they want to sell you 900 g of silver while calling it a full 1 kg. But having a standard weight means that when you go to buy something, you know that when it says “1 kg” you get exactly 1 kg. This is important, because it makes the economy that much easier to run. If I run a flour mill, and I need 500 kg of wheat, I need to know that when a truck shows up with 500 kg of wheat, there is exactly 500 kg of wheat on that truck, not 499 kg and not 500 kg. And I also need to know exactly what type of wheat I am getting. These kinds of regulations are very good and necessary and make the economy run more smoothly and efficiently, making our golden gooses capable of laying the maximum number of golden eggs.

Another regulation says, “You have to hire this many women”. Or, put in another way, “You can’t hire more than this many men, no matter how qualified they are.” This kind of regulation seems like a good idea. Who would want to say women don’t deserve jobs they are qualified for? But the other side of these regulations is dark and sinister: It is excluding other qualified people from participating. These kinds of regulations can only hurt the economy. Let me explain why:

  • Suppose the regulation limits behavior that no one wants to do anyway. In this case, the regulation has no effect. Example: “You must hire a woman” when the best qualified candidate was a woman.
  • Suppose the regulation limits behavior that people wanted to do. They wanted to do it because that behavior is more profitable, and the regulation makes them do something else instead, something that is less profitable. So that sort of regulation hurts the economy. Example: “You must hire a woman” when there was a man who was better qualified than all the other women.

So, now that we see that regulations which can only hurt the economy are unwise, let’s answer the question: What do we do with all the people with pre-existing conditions?

You’re not going to like the answer. Trust me.

Well, if you like the answer, you would already be doing it. So it won’t surprise you. But if the answer surprises you, then you aren’t going to like it.

The answer is: Help them yourself! That’s right, break out your checkbook, and write them a check. Or do something that helps them. Maybe you build a hospital and hire doctors to give free treatment to people suffering from that disease. Or you build a research center and hire scientists to find better and cheaper cures and treatments for the disease.

Now, I have my own money, which I spend on things I think are most important, things like food and clothing for my kids and a roof over our head and books and things like that. I also spend a significant chunk to help other people, since I have been blessed with more “golden eggs” than I need for my own family. I fully intend to get very rich, and spend my retirement further helping in whatever way I can to alleviate the suffering of my fellow-man.

The idea that government should somehow solve the problem is wrong on so many levels. Suffice it to say, why do you think the one institution with which we entrust our natural rights to kill and destroy to handle the delicate issue of helping people with pre-existing conditions? What sort of madman would want that sort of arrangement? Indeed I can think of only one type of madman: Some despotic psychopath who wants to center all power in a government they can control. When you think about it, truly only a psychopath would say that rather than having people help each other, we should have the government do it for them.

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