Sunday, September 27, 2009

Health care is expensive - so is the newest and biggest plasma TV

Recently there has been quite a lot written about how expensive health care is. Which isn't surprising, because health care is expensive, especially if you want access to all the latest technology, which most people do when their lives are at stake.

But the truth is that health care is just like TV. If you're satisfied to watch a ten year old technology TV you can get one at Walmart for a hundred bucks. If you want the latest huge screen plasma model it's going to cost you ten or twenty times as much.

The next time you hear someone whining about the cost of a new wonder drug remind him that he can save a lot of money by using an old generic drug that's probably almost as good. If there is no old generic drug that treats his condition you can remind him that the new drug is very logically worth quite a lot if he would have died before it was invented.

The government charges a young person something like 14% of his income for Social Security, which is insurance that he will get a fairly minimal pension in his old age. By that standard the value of medical treatments which will let him live to old age is quite high.

But just how expensive is health care? It turns out that it's not very expensive at all considering the alternative. There is a website called that will quickly give you quotes on health insurance if you put in your age.

It turns out that a 25 year old can get catastrophic coverage with a high deductible for $40 a month, or he can get a gold plated policy for about $175 a month. Figure one day a month working at the local McDonalds for basic catastrophic coverage and a few days a month of minimum wage work for gold plated coverage.

The rates for a 61 year old are, not surprisingly, quite a bit steeper since he's quite a bit closer to his sell by date and is probably already a medical mess. But even so, a 61 year old can buy catastrophic coverage for about $200 a month, which he can net with about a week's work at the local Wawa even after the government grabs its taxes. It's true that gold plated coverage at about $1,000 per month is pretty much out of the ballpark for the 61 year old unless he's saved up and/or built up the skills to make significant income; but if he's 61 he should already know that anybody who ever promised him a rose garden was bullshitting. A 61 year old is too dumb to be worth saving if he doesn't already know that life ain't fair, and then you die.

Another thing that gets to me is the constant whining about how the cost of extraordinary health care is driving some people to bankruptcy. Even as I feel sorry for those people, it's very hard for me to avoid thinking that bankruptcy is a whole lot better than dead, which is what they would be without the extraordinary health care.

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