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Why should I pay?

Published August 1, 2016 by livinggraciously

The other day Ferrett was having a debate with someone over assorted political issues. One that came up was the Affordable Healthcare Act. This person, in their* 30s, demanded to know why they should pay for health insurance when they were young and healthy. What, exactly, were they getting out of the money they were spending for insurance?

It struck me, then, that I’ve heard this argument before, and been just as irritated by it.

It’s the argument that retired people make when voting down school bonds: “Why should I pay for the schools anymore? My kids don’t go there. I don’t get anything out of it.”

It’s the same argument, snarled from the far ends of the bell curve.

Yeah, it’s a bummer to have to pay taxes. I know. I pay lots of them. My kids aren’t in school anymore. But they were. And so was I, once. And someone else footed that bill. So I don’t object when it’s my turn to pay for the benefit I once received.

And yes, when you’re young it hardly seems fair that you have to pay for insurance that you probably won’t use. But guess what, bucko? You won’t be young forever. And when you aren’t, someone else will be paying premiums that get spent on your health care, just like you’re paying premiums now.

These systems don’t work if everyone doesn’t participate. I paid insurance premiums for years on when we never even met the deductible. And then there are years like the one when Ferrett had his appendix burst. Or his heart attack. We weren’t financially ruined by those events, because we had insurance. And we had insurance because lots of people pay premiums and only use a fraction of that amount in a year. There was a pool of money to pay the hospital because, through a flawed system that needs reform, millions of people had our backs.

The AHA isn’t perfect–the insurance companies won far too much of that battle–and I would like to see lots of reform in the way medicine works in this country. But the plain fact is that no insurance system works unless healthy people pay in. If insurance was “opt in when you get sick” the whole system would be bankrupt in no time.

So, yes, most young people are paying for a service that they, gods willing, will not be using. This year. But even setting aside accidents and the fact that youth is not a guarantee against cancer or other diseases, they are paying forward for the services that they will need far sooner than seems possible. I didn’t get to nearing-60 overnight, but sometimes it feels like I did.

I take great issue with the older person who thinks it’s no longer to their advantage to pay for public schools through their taxes. And I take the same issue with the younger person who thinks they shouldn’t have to pay for health insurance. We’re all in this together, and it’s the only way these systems work.

*yes, I’m using the singular “they.” It’s now considered acceptable, and I try to move with the times.

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