by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I have for years argued that most people would be reflexive free-market capitalists if not for their experiences with a handful of businesses: airlines, banks, cable and Internet providers, etc. At the very top of this list is insurance companies. “The trouble with socialism is socialism,” as Willi Schlamm famously put it. “The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.” These [baroquely ornate string of expletives deleted] insurance monkeys are the capitalists Willi Schlamm warned us about.
Congress, responding to years of outcry against “surprise” medical bills, is about to do what Congress does, which is make things somewhat worse by giving the people what they are clamoring for.
Medical bills and medical insurance can be perplexing and exasperating. They often are random-seeming. My mother’s last stay in the hospital lasted several weeks, some of them in cardiac intensive care. The bill that came was absolutely staggering, about ten times the annual salary she’d earned at the end of her working life. But she spent the last part of that working life employed by the state, so she had excellent insurance at practically no cost, and so instead of being saddled with a ruinous bill she could never hope to pay, she received a check equal to about a year’s pay. It was a welcome outcome, but an absurd one. I have more stories of that kind, as I am sure many of you do. I suppose I am the kind of sucker insurance companies like: I have a high-deductible plan in case I get hit by a cement truck, but if I need a COVID test or an eye exam, I generally use the insurance card that says “American Express” on the front of it, sparing myself the Kafkaesque horror of engaging with the insurance bureaucracy.