Monday, March 26, 2007


Flying Without A Safety Net

It may be exhilarating to fly through your youth without a safety net, but what happens when you fall?

Here is an article from New York Magazine that examines the plight of young workers without health insurance in New York City. The young - as well as the poor - are disproportionately represented among the more than 47 million uninsured Americans. Although some might not readily sympathize with healthy, white, middle-class twentysomethings going without health insurance at what may be the most carefree time of their lives, the fact is things happen. And when they do, the consequences can be financially crippling.

The article makes a few interesting points. One is that, considering that healthy, young people are a necessary ingredient in the "risk pool" of insurance to offset the costs incurred by those who are older and sicker, the health insurance honchos apparently don't have the common sense to make their product cheap enough for younger workers to afford it. This only causes their costs to run even higher, increasing their premiums still further in a vicious circle that spirals out of control. Another effect of setting the price too high is to shift the burden of medical costs for the uninsured to hospital emergency rooms and the like. This increased cost is then spread across all of the rest of the hospital's services, causing it to bill the insurance companies more for everything, and ultimately this increased cost is passed along to the consumer in the form of higher premiums. And so the vicious circle spirals upwards even higher - or actually two vicious circles spiral upwards together, like a pair of cobras cuddling or the double helix of our own goddamn DNA. If the insurance companies set the premiums for the young at affordable levels, they would not only reduce the overall risk of their policies, but decrease the cost of medical services to begin with, therefore doubly reducing their own costs. You'd think they'd think of that themselves, now wouldn't you?

"The Young Invincibles" from New York Magazine

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