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In Praise of Discrimination


I'm scared.

I fear that even if the Supreme Court overrules most of Obamacare (or did already, by the time you read this), Republicans will join Democrats in restoring "good" parts of the law, like the requirement that insurance companies cover kids up to age 26 and every American with a pre-existing condition.

Those parts of Obamacare are popular. People like getting what they think is free stuff. But requiring coverage to age 26 makes policies cost more.

Even Bill O'Reilly lectures me that government should ban discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions. Most Americans agree with him. Who likes discrimination? Racial discrimination was one of the ugliest parts of American history. None of us wants to be discriminated against. But discrimination is part of freedom. We discriminate when we choose our friends or our spouse, or when we choose what we do with our time.

Above all, discrimination is what makes insurance work. An insurance regime where everyone pays the same amount is called "community rating." That sounds fair. No more cruel discrimination against the obese or people with cancer. But community rating is as destructive as ordering flood insurance companies to charge me nothing extra to insure my very vulnerable beach house, or ordering car insurance companies to charge Lindsay Lohan no more than they charge you. Such one-size-fits-all rules take away insurance companies' best tool: risk-based pricing. Risk-based pricing encourages us to take better care of ourselves.

Car insurance works because companies reward good drivers and charge the Lindsay Lohans more. If the state forces insurance companies to stop discriminating, that kills the business model.

No-discrimination insurance isn't insurance. It's welfare. If the politicians' plan was to create another government welfare program, they ought to own up to that instead of hiding the cost.

Obama — and the Clintons before him — expressed outrage that insurance companies charged people different rates based on their risk profiles. They want everyone covered for the same "fair" price.

The health insurance industry was happy to play along. They even offered to give up on gender differences. Women go to the doctor more often than men and spend more on medicines.

Their lifetime medical costs are much higher, and so it makes all the sense in the world to charge women higher premiums. But Sen. John Kerry pandered, saying, "The disparity between women and men in the individual insurance market is just plain wrong, and it has to change!" The industry caved. The president of its trade group, Karen M. Ignagni, said that disparities "should be eliminated."

Caving was safer than fighting the president and Congress, and caving seemed to provide the industry with benefits. Insurance companies wouldn't have to work as hard. They wouldn't have to carefully analyze risk. They'd be partners with government — fat and lazy, another sleepy bureaucracy feeding off the welfare state. Alcoholics, drug addicts and the obese won't have to pay any more than the rest of us.

But this just kills off a useful part of insurance: encouraging healthy behavior. Charging heavy drinkers more for insurance gives them one more incentive to quit. "No-discrimination" pricing makes health care costs rise even faster. Is it too much to expect our rulers to understand this?

Of course, the average citizen doesn't understand either. When I argue that medical insurance makes people indifferent to costs, I get online comments like: "I guess the 47 million people who don't have health care should just die, right, John?"

The truth is, almost all people do get health care, even if they don't have health insurance. Hospitals rarely turn people away; Medicaid and charities pay for care; some individuals pay cash; some doctors forgive bills. I wish people would stop conflating the terms "health care," "health insurance" and "Obamacare." Reporters ask guests things like: "Should Congress repeal health care?" I sure don't want anyone's health care repealed.

Reporters also routinely called Obamacare health "reform." But the definition of reform is: making something better. More government control won't do that. We should call politicians' insurance demands "big intrusive complex government micromanagement."

Let the private sector work. Let it discriminate.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="" <>></a>. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




8 Comments | Post Comment

‘The Private Sector is doing fine!' Of course, I'm quoting! Washington has lot touch with reality! Doesn't
take a rocket scientist to figure out it's time to eliminate Senators and Congress people, padlock the
doors, send them all home, and put in place a Governor from each state, who isn't an attorney, to make
sure we get back to being ‘For the People'. The Governor should know what's going on and put an end to
the rhetoric; if not, then ‘YOU'RE FIRED' are going to be the words Taxpayers use, which should have
been made into law many years ago! But then, look who's passing the laws and who they are benefiting.
Not the Taxpayers!

Politicians continue to talk about ‘creating jobs', yet they haven't the slighest idea of how creating jobs
works. If they did, NAFTA, CAFTA, and FOREIGN trade would have been voted down! The only jobs
they've created are for themselves, their buddies, and their very deep pockets, thus making government
so big, it's bankrupted America! When they sold Americans' jobs out to foreign countries, stating
“America will become a service country”, well, you guessed it, the only things being serviced are their
huge salaries, benefits, retirements, unemployment, social and welfare programs, thus ‘Discriminating
Against the Taxpayers', which they've done far too many times. Everyone can't be an attorney, a doctor,
or a business person, and this means we need the textile and furniture manufacturing jobs that America
had before being sold out for politicians' interests. BTW, Sitting on a John Deere, in your home, wouldn't
work and neither will the IOU'S placed in the vault by politicians.

Harry Reid's comments about cutting the 14 trillion dollar debt with a mere couple billion is one more of
their ignorant jokes along with, and I'm quoting, ‘this budget is the hardest job I've ever done!' Guess
what, folks, these people don't know what a hard job is! It's time for these career politicians to be sent
back to where they came from with no salary, no retirements from Taxpayers. Remember, most of them
became politicians because they couldn't make it in the private sector!

As far as Obamacare, this is another mess created to make Taxpayers think they're really doing a job.
These career politicians couldn't care less about Taxpayers future or their insurance, if they did, they
wouldn't be “taking” from Taxpayers and “giving” to people who've never worked and never intend to
work and this is obvious in the Medicare programs, the millions of dollars spent on booklets (that mean
nothing)and you can tell this from the rhetoric. Not only is this ‘Discriminating Against Taxpayers', but it
should be illegal to force anyone to buy anything, as is being done as we speak! Remember, this isn't
their money! It belongs to Taxpayers!

I'm quoting “we'll stimulate the economy with more bailouts and handouts' and once this what politicians
call a recession (Taxpayers call a depression) ends, we'll reduce the deficit!' A little late, wouldn't you
say? Economists and Taxpayers, know the politicians/government workers will never get control of
anything, never have, never will. Take GMAC and the huge bailouts by politicians to ‘as they put it - to
save jobs'? Without textile and furniture manufacturing jobs, no one could buy the cars, anyway, and this
is why GMAC shouldn't have been bailed out with Taxpayers money! According to latest news, GMAC is
recalling another 470,000, plus, cars for possibility of catching fire. Politicians say ‘they're doing so
good!' Really? Chevy Volt (powered out), Cadillac (now Chinalac) and debt isn't being paid as they still
owe Taxpayers trillions on these bailouts. I suppose this is what politicians call ‘creating jobs, huh?'

Time Warner, with Pat McCrory and Walter Dalton, debate was quite interesting. NC Bar Association put
this one on. Taxpayers know the past and what a lot of attorneys, Democrats and Republicans, have
gotten by with, that it's time to cut ties with politicians, who are attorneys, Easley, Perdue and of course,
Dalton, as they're cut from the same mold and this mold has got to stop growing.

While I'm on a roll, it's time to eliminate Senators and Congress people, padlock the doors, send them all
home with no salary or retirement, since they've didn't have a job when they landed this career position
that has destroyed America! It's time to put in place a Governor from each state, who isn't an attorney, so
we can turn America back to being ‘For the People'!

It's really quite simple, folks!
Comment: #1
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:45 AM
Re: Shirley deLong
That is the most ignorant, misinformed, sophmoric rant I have ever read. Learn somethinng about facts and issues before you make a public fool of yourself.

John the private sector doesn't work in health care, except for huge profits to the insurance industry. Here is my wish for you....
You get fired, you have no insurance, it came with your job, you get a quote to buy it yourself, it's $1200 a month for you and your wife, you have to have it. You get your physical, your blood work is abnormal. You go to the Dr. you have a tumor in your pancreas, you are denied the coverage, cancer is an automatic denial with every carrier. You call every broker, no one will touch you. You are now unemployed, running out of cash and sick, you need very expensive treatment. You apply for Medicaid, adults can't get covered unless you have minor children. You need surgery, chemo, an oncologist, gastroenterologist, and more. No money, no service. A fact is most Medicaid providers are closed to new patients, the cuts in Medicaid has made it not worth treating the patients. Good luck finding specialists or family Drs. who take Medicaid.
John, you are screwed, you could try your community health free clinic, they can give you some advil.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:41 PM
wake up and smell the coffee John!!! you don't get it do you? I wonder how many shares do you own in these insurance companies or how much they pay you to be so out of touch with reality.
Comment: #3
Posted by: trevor
Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:29 PM
As much as I enjoy your work, I do not agree with you on this matter. Not at all.
While it's very easy to blame ill health on alcohol, drugs and obesity, the FACT is that health conscious people get sick--very sick--every day. So will we have to be screened for obesity, drug use and alcohol as well as radon gas in our homes, psychological disorders, genetic flaws, I.Q (people with lower I.Q.s use the doctor more often and get sicker), emotional stability (stress is a disorder that causes numerous health issues), etc.?
What if a couple has a baby and the insurance company could prove that genetics were a factor in the child's Down Syndrome? Is that a pre-existing condition? Could they be "fined" for procreating without genetic testing?
What if you quit smoking in your 30's and got lung cancer in your 60's? Since you engaged in at-risk behavior, the insurance company could deny coverage under your plan.
The coverage you desire would make insurance companies a private sector Big Brother with an incredible amount of power.
Obviously people of lower income should pay more, too. They can't afford proper meals and their homes might be hazardous. What about the middle class who mow their own lawns, climb ladders to clean the gutters and take their kids camping every summer? They are bound to have injuries with those kind of activities, right? So let's charge them more, too. Upper class people let others do their dirty and dangerous household chores and have lower risk of obesity, drugs and alcohol. So they pay less.
Sorry John, but what you are advocating smacks of class warfare.
You mislead your readers, too. You said, "But requiring coverage to age 26 makes policies cost more." Yes, it does, but only THAT family's policy. For example, my son is 22 and still on our insurance. The cost for his added coverage is something WE pay for. Any child covered to age 26 would be paid for by the primary policy holder, not others. Don't lead people to think that they would be picking up the tab--only the parents would.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Merry's House
Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:53 PM
I have a problem with the lack of compassion in Stossel's point.
There is a serious flaw in his argument. That flaw assumes that everyone that has a preexisting condition/would be denied coverage is a result of the failure to take care of one's health. The increased risk examples of Lindsay Lohan and beach house were from poor choices, not getting a bad luck card. Many folks have conditions through no fault of their own. The universal coverage is an attempt to not penalize those folks. Yes, we get those in the mix that don't make good choices. But, think about if you had a genetically caused disease or cancer and couldn't get coverage and were facing a total depletion of all of your assets to get Medicaid coverage. You might think differently about universal coverage then. Why should we have to wait until we are 65 and Medicare eligible to get healthcare coverage?????? It doesn't make sense.
Comment: #5
Posted by: nvillemomma
Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:54 AM
Re: Bloom Hilda

I can understand where you are coming from and I believe you have a caring for your fellow man that is to be lauded. The difference between you and Mr. Stossel is that he believes that you should have to pay for the health care you use. I believe that neither you or Mr. Stossel would really condemn someone to die because they couldn't pay but Libertarians such as Mr. Stossel believe that people should not be forced to pay for another's care. Those in dire need should be helped by the generosity of others not by those forced to do so.

I know you probably won't understand it but best of luck out there.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Just Kevin
Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:09 PM
Re: Shirley deLong
I agree with you. Look at Afganistan under the Taliban or Somalia, those are like Paradise compare to those Hellish socialist countries in western Europe ...
While I am on this track, I think car insurance, property tax and a few more things should outlawed.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lionel Boncy
Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:12 PM
So happy to see Bloom Hilda and the rest doing what they do best, keeping it real and keeping it honest. Missed you.
Comment: #8
Posted by: liz
Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:42 PM
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