Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?

Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?
August 23, 2009 by Dr. Roger Starner Jones

During my last shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tatoos and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid.

She smokes a costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer.

And our president expects me to pay for this woman's health care?

Our nation's health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD

Doctor Jones was right, and should be commended for publishing his comments. We were told to be outraged that banks, insurance companies, auto-manufacturers and other businesses got a government bailout. The issue was that bad decisions have negative consequences, and that to protect these mega-corporations from the consequences of their own actions was not only unwise (encouraging them to continue making bad decisions) but that it would unjustly shift the burden of responsibility from those who made the mistakes to all the rest of us who were the victims of those decisions.

This problem is precisely what occurs when individuals are bailed out as well. I don't know anyone who objects to helping those who cannot help themselves, even with expensive health care. But I know many people, myself included, who do have a problem with forcing the rest of us to help those who simply won't help themselves, such as the woman in Dr. Jones' example (and let us not pretend this was only an isolated case). If it is outrageous to spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars to bailout irresponsible businesses for making bad decisions, it should also be outrageous to spend hundreds of billions more in tax dollars to bailout millions of irresponsible individuals for making bad decisions.

And that is the underlying problem: government is rightly expected to be responsible with the people's money. This oversight (although selectively applied) requires endless strings, bureaucracy and red tape. And that is why America's founders set up the Constitution so the federal government had no place in any of the myriad social programs we pay into today. Retirement, education, health care, etc., is supposed to be the realm of the states and the people, not of the federal government. If you want your state government to handle your health care, public education, Social Security and other aspects of your life, fine; but get the federal government out.