So what alternative do you propose? If you were in charge, how would you decide how much to spend on, say, medical treatment for poor people, crash barriers, street lamps ...
There is a difference between knowing the right answer (which I don't) and knowing that an answer is wrong. I can't spell out for you a perfect policy that makes everyone happy, but I can make a couple jabs at things that might work....
Firstly, define your solution. Is it a governmental solution, a private solution, or a hybrid? In my previous post, I discussed how a governmental "unilaterally fair" policy is harmful to society, so lets scratch that. A wholey private solution would say "Yes, the CEO is important, let the company he works for carry his/her medical bills since they have an interest in him/her living." Of course, companies don't always carry an emergency medical reserve of cash in their back pocket, so it would make more fiscal sense for them to pay premiums to some other company that does, and insures the individual. That sounds strangely like the way it works. In this manner, those persons who either have money themselves, or provide something of value to someone (for example, the researcher) will be covered.
Fantastic! Now everyone who contributes value or has money is covered. The problem here is that the poor and replaceable aren't protected, because no one thinks they're worth the cost of their premiums. So, if you're basing the system off a moral decision, you have to scratch the private solution too.
My vote is that its a hybrid solution. This leaves three categories of people; Those who can afford good health insurance without help, those who can't, and those for which it doesn't matter because no insurance company would insure them.
Don't worry about Group A. For Group B, its possible with regulation to subsidize a varied percentage of health insurance premiums for those under a certain poverty line. Basically, say that single mothers, people who are working, or people who are eligible for unemployment are also eligible for a program that ensures that they have health insurance if they want it. Make it so that people who abuse illegal drugs, drive under the influence of alcohol, commit a felony, etc, lose their subsidy check until they are certified clean. The government will have to force insurance companies to pick up group 3, and I imagine the government is going to have to foot the bill for it, but from a "moral" viewpoint, it would be the only way to keep it fair.
How much insurance should the government give them? You don't have to decide this, let the people decide. Increase the percentage of the subsidy that the government pays for as the individual buys more insurance, so that the individual will limit the amount of insurance they have based on the amount of disposable income they want to invest, but still have the option to get all the insurance they need.
You can also institute additional programs in which a person trades something of value to the government in exchange for insurance. Offer free lifelong health insurance up to a certain level to anyone who volunteers 5 years in the Uniformed Services (I think there is something like that in place already). Give additional subsidies to health insurance costs to people who become a teacher. In other words, always leave an option open.
Expensive? Of course, what were you expecting? The Fed should be able to, with proper regulation, lower medical costs some. Will the insurance companies be hurting? Perhaps, but likely not. After the right cost levels are found, it should be close. Perhaps at this point the Fed can lend the insurance companies money at a discounted rate over what the banks get it at for the exclusive use of paying on claims. This should allow the insurance companies to keep a smaller cash repository without worrying about having to borrow from the banks at higher interest rates when an unanticipated number of claims come in.
This subject is pretty near to my heart. My brother is categorized as uninsurable by previous medical condition. There's no way in hell that he's going to be able to afford his medical bills on his own when my parents pass away. Fortunately for him, they are still around, and being middle class, they can ensure that the bills are paid. In my humble opinion, everyone deserves a certain level of coverage, and I think the taxpayers should foot a portion of that bill.
Economic impact might be a starting point but it certainly isn't the end point. Ultimately it has to be a collective decision taken by democratic means. I certainly would want the figure to be higher than merely the average Discounted Future Product of an individual, and I wouldn't want to see distinctions made between individuals based on their future worth either.
I think the system should be fair across the board too. However, the argument that it should be is based on morality and economics. When you concede that American life must be rated differently than foreigners, you lose a good portion of your moral imperative, and although some remains, the argument is now principally an economic one.
Minimum wage is not entirely a moral argument, either. In fact, I would argue that only its existence is moral. In the endgame, the state is providing a system that allows the lower class to live in semi-respectable fashion while still spending money and contributing to the economy as a consumer. I once heard someone say, "I bet McDonalds wishes that they did away with minimum wage." I disagree! A good portion of McDonald's repeat customers come out of the minimum wage bracket. If you took away what little spending money they had, they would stop eating at McDonalds.
I, for one, believe that the current system simply needs to be fine-tuned to offer similar protections to its poor as it does to its rich, and that starting from scrap by defining a value to human life is a horridly bad idea. There is no upper limit to it. If you want corporations to make products that respect the safety of their users, make it economically inconvenient for them to ignore safety by either raising the level of damages achieveable in court, and making the situations under which a company must recall and fix its shipped products more frequent.
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