The Free Market Approach to Health Care

I’m imagining hunger insurance—or, perhaps, it would be called, in parallel with convention, “satiation insurance.” 

Hungry, I proceed to the burger joint, where some are covered but others resist the insurance mandate and pay out of pocket. My personal information is taken, and photocopies of my ID and insurance card. Those with neither insurance nor income are transported by emergency vehicles when they nearly succumb to starvation and are given a cheeseburger, despite lack of coverage or cash. I pay my co-payment of $1. I eat my cheeseburger. 

The burger joint, to thrive financially, juggles payments from the various insurers, so it cannot post a set price of the cheeseburger. About six to eight weeks after jousting with the insurance company, the burger joint’s billing department—which is housed in square footage larger than its kitchen and eating area and employs more white-collar workers than food servers—sends a three-page bill. The burger’s price is listed at $34.81. The insurance share has been minused out in a separate column: $28.55. I still owe $5.26. If payment is not sent within 30 days, that will be $5.79. If not within 60 or 90 days… well, an algorithm and then bill-collection agencies will determine my fate. 

Similar information had been received in my mail four days ago from the insurance company, although that information was listed in an entirely different format, using different column headers and jargon, more breakdown columns and more pages, including four pages to inform me of my rights to dispute and appeal, with all the steps of that process listed in language that only a Yale-educated attorney could decipher. Another two pages, probably compiled by a United Nations agency, listed interpretation services and the locations of the embassies I might visit for assistance with navigating my appeal. Baffled, I had set that statement aside. 

By contrast, my digestive system processed the cheeseburger within a few hours, and, by simply pressing the shiny lever on a porcelain appliance, I was able weeks ago to put the matter behind me.