People need healthcare

Published 4:19 am Friday, January 6, 2017

Now that Congress is back in session, there is plenty of talk about repealing “Obamacare,” the president’s signature healthcare reform law.

This is a bad idea, especially for rural America.

As good health is something that benefits the individual as well as the states and the country as a whole, one might think that healthcare would be a less politicized issue than it is. In fact, there are many areas where both Republicans and Democrats agree. Nobody likes higher insurance rates. Nobody likes the high cost of medicine or medical treatment.

However, easy and obvious fixes like easing patent protections and expanding Medicare and Medicaid — which do not depend on insurance companies — are politically toxic. In addition, I’ve always sensed more than a whiff of classism from those who suggest that “lifestyle choices” are personal matters and people should be allowed to do what they like and then suffer the consequences. That includes, I suppose, bankruptcy, long-term illness or early death from preventable or treatable diseases. Hey — if a person chooses to smoke or eat bad food and doesn’t have insurance, why should society be on the hook?

Except, of course, we are on the hook either way. In states with poorer health statistics — like Louisiana — worker productivity is lower because people are out sick more frequently. The cost of doing business is, therefore, also higher. A 2012 Forbes article reported the national cost of sick employees and workers compensation amounted to half a trillion dollars each year. Who makes up that revenue? Customers. Call it a hidden tax, if you like.

Then, too, medical care costs rise for everyone else as hospitals are forced to make up revenue spent on emergency care on routine illnesses for the uninsured. Some of the states with the cheapest healthcare are also the healthiest. Coincidence? Call that, also, another hidden tax.

Taken together, the states with the higher healthcare costs and the sicker workforces lead to a lower quality of life in general, which, again, makes the state less competitive for business.

Finally, I’d like to remind readers that insurance costs were supposed to fall after states implemented tort reform. But guess what? They didn’t. They were supposed to fall, also, when insurance companies could sell across state lines. But, in the states that tried that in 2012, insurance companies declined to offer plans across state lines because it would have been too costly. The problem there isn’t with government regulation — it’s insurance companies.

Once again, just to be clear: I, too, would like to see insurance rates fall. I sympathize with people who struggle to make insurance payments. But being forced into bankruptcy or an early death for lack of healthcare coverage is monstrous.

Regardless of politics, I hope we can agree on that part.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor for The Daily News. You can email him at or call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301.