Would Obamacare Have Prevented Breaking Bad’s Walter White from Becoming Heisenberg?

One of my esteemed readers has left an astute and interesting hypothetical in the comments section of another post. If Walter White, whose cancer diagnosis was the catalyst to turn into a meth cook, had free health care, would he have, um, broken bad?

This idea – the medical costs made him do it – has been bouncing around, including in this widely circulated cartoon by Christopher Keelty.

So, what about it? Would socialized medicine have prevented Heisenberg? Would it have saved Jesse from deep soul torment (the kind that brings most of us to religion), Brock from ricin poisoning and whatever the heck happened to Hank and Gomez in that interrupted shootout last episode?

Could it be that easy?

Let’s break it down.

Walter White was a long term high school chemistry teacher in New Mexico*. Public school teachers, God bless ‘em, have some of the sweetest benefits in the country, including retirement, long term disability, and a stellar health care plan. New Mexico is no exception. Seriously, we should all be so lucky as to have such benefits. The private sector is not nearly so generous. (And, we all know, pensions and benefits for public employees is one of the things bankrupt states are fighting over to try to balance the books.)

So as much as anyone is in life, Walt was set with the best medical care money could buy.

As an aside, the same would be true for his D.E.A. agent brother-in-law. His medical care would cover treatment for the bullet injury to the leg of Ole Hank (may he rest in peace if the shootout didn’t end well). The show dealt with this relatively fairly, because his wife Marie wanted different, more expensive treatment than what the insurance provided.

Guess what, guys?

That happens under socialized health care. Like, a lot. The wealthy buy their way out of the system and into better care. Ask anyone from England.

So Obamacare wouldn’t have helped Hank either.

In fairness to the show, it wasn’t so much the medical bills that lured Walt into a life of crime. It was the desire to leave his family financially secure.

That’s a different issue than medical bills, isn’t it? One that Universal Healthcare couldn’t fix.

But it’s not unfixable. This is exactly why responsible people buy life insurance. If you roll the dice and don’t have that protection, that’s on you.

Also, that’s why responsible mothers like Skyler keep their accountancy skills up to date and perhaps keep their tabs on jobs. What was Skyler? Incompetent? Helpless?

We all know now she’s not. She’s pretty ruthless, truth be told. In fact, she would have been better off if Walt had died an honorable cancer death. At least she wouldn’t be looking at serious prison time.

The bottom line is that it was Walt’s pride, not his access to medical care, that led him down the road to perdition.

Which makes for a great, rich, deep story.

Just don’t try to base health care policy on it, m’kay?

 

*Like an idiot, I said in my first version of this post that the show was set in Arizona when anyone with half a brain knows it’s New Mexico. The error has been corrected. I blame Miley.

Read More:

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 1: Blood Money.

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 2: Buried

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 3: Confessions

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 4: Rabid Dog

Vote on how the series should end here.

  • Chris

    First off, thanks for sharing my little comic, and for linking. I do appreciate it.

    Secondly: You make an interesting error in your post. Breaking Bad takes place in New Mexico, not Arizona. The reason that’s interesting is that your point about teacher’s insurance is valid–but it might not be in Arizona, a right-to-work state where teachers don’t have collective bargaining rights. That said, I don’t personally know the present reality of teacher pay and insurance in Arizona.
    I’ve seen several people observe that, in reality, Walt would likely have had great medical insurance that would have paid for his treatment. I suppose that’s a liberty the show takes.

    Thirdly: You’re not the first person to make this argument that “Walt cooks meth to provide for his family, not to pay his medical bills,” and in general I’ve avoided engaging in discussions about this detail of the show. I think (a) people’s interpretations of Walt’s character are personal and varied, as are all reactions to art, and (b) the people behind the show intentionally leave Walt’s precise motivations vague specifically to make his character interesting.

    However, since it’s at the heart of a larger argument you’re making, I will respond here with my disagreement. Yes, it’s true that Walt’s motives by the end of Season One are oriented around leaving something for his family, but I’d argue that it’s the need to pay his medical bills, at Skyler’s insistence, that initially drive him to cook meth. My read is that, after his first experience cooking meth, Walt would rather have skipped the treatment and died than cook meth again–he begins the show as a coward, after all. It was his wife’s insistence on undergoing expensive chemotherapy that pushed him into crime. Now, once he got a taste for it, I agree 100% that Walt’s pride becomes the driving factor behind the character. But that is, of course, just my read.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Hey Chris,

      Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to stop by. And congrats, by the way, on having a cartoon go viral. That is super cool. Seriously.

      On the Arizona versus New Mexico thing, d’oh. You’re SO right and I’m so wrong and I totally knew that but typed the wrong thing in. I HATE it when I make those kind of errors and will immediately correct. Thanks for catching. I went ahead and looked up Arizona benefits and they seem pretty solid.

      I’m all for right to work states. But that’s just my point of view.

      One of the things about Bryan Cranston’s amazing acting is that there’s a lot of depth to Walt’s motives. You can tell that the taste of evil, plus getting away with things he never thought he could, plus the power that he feels, plus having his assumption that he’s smarter than anyone else verified in his mind, plus the bitterness he feels about being only moderately comfortable versus his very successful friend = getting deeper and deeper into meth. He’s complicated.

      But in any case, it’s all just an excuse, isn’t it? An excuse for bad behavior.

      My basic argument is that, right to work state or not, Walt would have hardly died unnecessarily (although good care is no guarantee) or been destitute. His medical care was pretty good. Excellent, by worldwide standards.

  • Susan_G1

    Walt needed $737,000… not to cover the cost of medical care, but to cover the cost of living for his family and college for the kids. So, I beg to differ with you, Chris.

    Also, Hank was shot in the back (in New Mexico). He was a paraplegic. You don’t get that from being shot in the leg (or both of them). Remember the bet that got him discharged? It was definitely not a leg wound.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      That’s exactly right. He calculated the cost for what he thought they needed to live without him. Nothing to do with health care.

      I totally remember it as him being shot in the leg. I’d have to watch the episode again. I’m sure you’re right. Thanks for clarifying.

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    In the UK you can’t buy your way out of the NHS but you can take out private health insurance. The NHS doesn’t have a opt in/opt out system. And Obamacare isn’t socialized healthcare

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      You can buy your way out of being dependent on the decisions and whims of the system. In other words, you can buy above and beyond the system.

      Even if you weren’t allowed to do that, people still would on the black market.

      Obamacare is most certainly socialized medical care. I don’t know what definition you’re using, and I know they don’t like to use that word, but that’s exactly what it is.

      Thanks for commenting. I truly appreciate it.

      • ThisIsTheEnd

        Everybody who earns above a certain threshold has to contribute towards the NHS. It’s called National Insurance. You can however jump the queue by taking out private medical insurance. But, other then minor medical surgeries, you still be using NHS services, medical staff and surgeons.

        And Obamacare is still centered around private health insurance companies. So no not socialized medicine.

        • John Stevens

          Yes, socialized medicine, as the bill sets the prices (costs) and reimburses according to those entirely arbitrary costs.

          The question you lefists are afraid to answer is: “When does a private company stop being private? At what level of government control does your property cease to be owned by you?”

          It is still socialism if the property is “owned” by individuals, but controlled by regulation, law, arbitrary ruling and “because the President says it is the right thing to do.”

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            “Controlled by regulation, law, arbitrary ruling” Could you give an example of a company or industry which isn’t controlled by regulation, law or ruling? The only industries which comes to mind are criminal i.e. drug trade, prostitution etc

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Ahh.. complexity. Thanks for this comment.

            Sure, most if not all industries are regulated in some way. Where they can dump their trash or waste, how they must treat their employees, etc.

            Some of these regulations are necessary (I’m not for complete deregulation) but many are excessive (ever tried to find your way around labor laws? They can be maddening.)

            But none have the price of their product set for them by the government.

            That’s the difference.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Exactly.

            It’s socialization pretending to be private, but it’s not.

      • Michael Zayas

        But seriously a single payer system would be socialized medicine,buying insurance from private insurance companies can in no way be described as socialized medicine

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          Being forced to buy insurance from “private” companies at prices set by the government is not free enterprise. It is socialization with a veneer of privatization to make people feel better. It is a lie.

    • TheMandarin6

      if it is a tax, its socialized

      • ThisIsTheEnd

        Well then using that metric, education is socialized, the military is socialized, police force is socialized, etc, etc

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          I’m glad you brought this up.

          Of course education is socialized. Of course the military is as well and the police. The question is what is the proper role of government.

          Policing and military are both no-brainers. They’re the role of government since Ur. Enforcing justice and protecting the population from outside threats are both kind of bedrock governmental roles. They’re the point of government.

          Schooling isn’t as historic and is more debatable. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that public schooling became widespread. And it was kind of a mix of wanting to help people and the idea that an educated populace was better for everybody. But make no mistake, when government took over that role, people lost freedom. Freedom to choose to have your kids on your farm instead of educate them. Freedom to educate in the way you want. Most of us would say that’s fine and good, which is why no one really debates public education’s existence anymore. Also, with that change, citizens started paying a lot more taxes to pay for the education system. And the education system gets to tell people what to do.

          So is the role of government to be your mommy? Your nanny? Cuddle you when you have the sniffles? Because that’s what socialized health care is. And there is a cost. A HUGE tax cost, but also a freedom cost. The person who pays for your medicine also gets to tell what to do. Not to smoke. Not to drink. Not to eat that hamburger. I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t eat. It is unfathomable to me that people even allow the beginnings of the government telling us what to eat. How did we get here? Don’t I get to make my own choices for my life?

          And that’s basically the issue. Who is responsible for the choices you make in life? Who decides.

          Personally, I want to decide.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            Plenty of people argue that policing and military shouldn’t be socialised, the reason why we both think that it’s a no brainer is because we can see the benefits. I come from a country where health care is socialised, I see the benefits. No offence but the whole nanny cuddling you rhetoric is very immature. The current system you have is unaffordable. Change to a “socialised” universal healthcare is inevitable. Post War 2 America was characterized by ample jobs and social mobility. Those days are over. You have to adjust to new realities even if it means nanny cuddling your sniffles

        • TheMandarin6

          yes! and it should be, police and defense should be socialized. Maybe education, but anything else is just forcing you to buy a product and taking away your freedom.

          • ThisIsTheEnd

            Sure, sure…

  • BillYeager

    So let me get this right, you are claiming that, because a fictional character would actually have had excellent medical insurance through his employer, therefore, ‘Obamacare’=Communism?

    Sorry, it’s just that the cliff you appear to like throwing us over with your repeated efforts to criticise social support, at any cost, including, but not limited to, claiming that a dystopian-future sci-fi movie where the super-rich live in luxury away from the downtrodden human workforce, is actually a a left-wing story about socialism (!?!), is a little jarring to have to experience so frequently within your articles.

    The contempt you show for those less fortunate than yourself is nauseating. Let me highlight what I mean, “If you roll the dice and don’t have that protection, that’s on you.”. Spoken like the truly brainwashed. I take it you’re not actually one of the 1%’ers, because, well, you’re here. So it would seem that the ‘manufactured consent’ industry is thriving in the US and is evidentially effective. They’ve managed to get almost the entire US middle-class to resent the poor and consider them as failed human beings who are nothing but a drain on society.

    Your bloated private health-care mega-industry needs restructuring before it does actually become like ‘Elysium’. It doesn’t want to. There is wayyyyy too much money involved. So they spend a few billion on ‘educating’ you about just how outrageous it is that your government plans to ensure that those on the lowest end of society have access to quality healthcare. Then you go out and tell all your ‘friends’ just how monstrous ‘Obamacare’ is. Just like they want you to, Like a good little doggy.

    Isn’t it truly awful that you are being forced to participate in a system that is at least attempting to help people who cannot help themselves? <=– That's sarcasm right there, just in case you weren't sure.

    • John Stevens

      So, you’re basing your health care policy on a movie as incredibly stupid as Elysium?

      In reality, what would have happened at the end of Elysium is the total destruction of those health care shuttles. Far, far, far too few, and far, far, far, far too many people who wanted to use them.

      Seriously, I understand that Elysium was designed to make Leftists feel like the good guys, giving an infinite amount of free healthcare to everyone, but in the real world, there is a “six days later” (six days later, the shuttles are widely dispersed pieces of scrap, the results of an all out resource allocation mass riot).

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Yes. Exactly. The riches of Elysium could never support the poverty of Earth. Maybe if the masses on Earth actually PRODUCED something, they could build wealth. But no, the entire movie is based on envy and not enterprise.

      • RyanP

        Elysium is a classic left wing story of an enormous and hopeless class divide. If medicine advances to the point where a few minutes in a machine will diagnose and cure all disease, the costs of health care would plunge. you wouldn’t need to train nearly as many doctors..once the initial capital investment of the machine is covered it is only a matter of paying for the power to run it.

        In an Elysium future there is no way the earth would not have at least some of those machines. There would be charitable efforts on Elysium to donate last years model of machines to the people of earth.

        On Elysium these machines were not just available at local clinics. Each citizen seemed to have one in their own home! Imagine, each person having that magical machine just sitting there almost never in use. That kind of abundance would trickle down to the poorest people of earth to some degree.

    • http://iiusandiego.com sotto voce

      “If you roll the dice and don’t have that protection, that’s on you.” Duh–the author was talking about life insurance, not health insurance. Last time I checked, buying life insurance was still a purely optional decision that any prudent person can make. There’s nothing contemptuous about pointing that out.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Thank you. Exactly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Man. We have conjunction problems. Not “therefore.” “And.” Don’t worry…I’ll do the edit for you. “A fictional character would actually have had excellent medical insurance through his employer, AND, ‘Obamacare’=Communism?”

      See? Conjunction problems. Maybe you should watch some SchoolHouse Rock. (Conjunction junction, what’s your function?)

      Man, I WISH I was a 1%er. That’s one of my life goals, actually.

      Which is hilarious that that’s now considered a bad thing in some circles. “You want to get rich? Wow. You must be a bad person.” So backward.

      I think the health care system DOES need reform, but to become more privatized, not less.

      And I think it’s pretty patronizing to say that a large percentage of the population cannot help itself. The few who can’t, the very few, are covered by both charity and the social safety net. That’s good. But most can and should help themselves, be responsible for themselves and feel the pride of providing for themselves. And if they don’t, they should suffer the consequences of their inaction and not make me and others like me pay for their sloth.

      • BillYeager

        My use of ‘therefore’ was intended to mimic the “blah blah fallacious argument blah blah. . .therefore God” theist meme. Most of your articles and arguments smell of right-wing tea-party kool-aid, so paraphrasing the ‘therefore God’ meme seemed acutely appropriate. Perhaps you lot are too busy believing in your own conditioning to recognise when the rest of us are making fun of your propensity to spout the same old dogma.

        Your irrational fear of the ‘Red under the bed’ asides, repeatedly shouting ‘Socialism!!!1!1111!!!’ doesn’t actually provide for an argument justifying your dislike of everything ‘Obama’.

        Good use of straw-man dishonesty by the way. Of course I hate everybody who is rich AND everybody who wants to be rich. Well, I might not have actually said that explicitly, right? But you can infer away to your heart’s content something along those lines because, after all, ANY supporter of social services for the needy who expresses a deep concern about the way in which your political system is heavily influenced by a small number of extremely wealthy people in order for them to accumulate even more wealth, MUST love Communism!!!!!1!11!111 Yayyyyyyyyy!

        By all means, do criticise government where it warrants it but, please, try and make the effort at least to not simply spout the same tired old clichés being spoon-fed to you via Faux News.

  • Syno86

    Hey ask some on from England. We’ll guess what I am. And the only reason the rich go private is for the privacy. The care is the same. Much better than you Americans get

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for the post. I’m sorry, though. I can’t believe that the only difference is privacy (which is a big deal). Speed of care and quality of care will also be part of the equation.

      Supply and demand. Supply and demand. Basic economics. If there’s more demand, you have to pay more for the product if you want a higher quality/faster service.

      Econ 101.

  • ahermit

    That happens under socialized health care. Like, a lot. The wealthy buy their way out of the system and into better care.

    Not as much as you might think actually…http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/21/3/19.full.html

    In fact Canada’s “socialized” health care makes it an attractive destination for American medical tourism…http://www.allmedicaltourism.com/articles/destinations/canada/

    Both my elderly parents have received cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery, hospital stays (in a private room) and home care following surgery without ever receiving a bill for service, or having to worry about insurance premiums going up, or being denied care because of “pre-existing conditions (those “death panels” you hear about are a myth. The only thing that comes close that I can see are the American private insurers who can refuse to pay for care for all kinds of reasons…that just doesn’t happen in Canada at any age.)

    As for Breaking Bad, Walt of course has other motivations; his friend Elliot would have covered the costs and Walt turned him down out of pride, so the cartoon has to leave out a whole lot of backstory to make its point. But the point itself is a valid one.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Of course subsidized health care makes it attractive for Americans. I’d drive a few extra blocks to save a few cents a gallon on gas so of course people would buy a plane ticket to save money on health care. Mexico is also a popular destination for certain low-level care.

      But that lower cost in Canada is not a real cost. It’s not what the care actually costs. It is subsidized.

      That subsidized cost is actually Americans taking advantage of Canadian taxpayers. So thank you for paying for Americans’ health care. Appreciate it.

      And, honestly, Canadians and the rest of the world wouldn’t have that level of medical care without corporations doing research in order to make a profit. That’s how new treatments and drugs are developed. By researchers trying to solve a problem, provide a service, and make a profit. Mostly in America. And the rest of the world takes advantage of America’s enterprise in creating new and better technologies and medicines. And then badmouths America’s system.

      But where are the drugs and technologies being developed?

      Those drugs would not have been developed if it weren’t for the fact they would be profitable. So America’s higher (and more realistic) health care costs are a way that we are subsidizing the care for the rest of the world that decided it was better to go socialized and let America lead the way.

      You pay less because a) we pay more and b) you pay lots of taxes.

      On a personal level, I’m glad that your parents are being taken care of. I’m sure that’s very reassuring for you. I can imagine the security of knowing they will get care and you won’t have to struggle to find the cash. But on a policy level, it still doesn’t make sense. Your parents paid their whole lives (or from whenever the system was instigated) for that care. I doubt they got their money’s worth, what with paying for all the other people too. And now the young are paying for the elderly. And that is an equation that, as in Social Security, has its own issues.

  • TheMandarin6

    I dont get all this Obamacare stuff people try to attach to a fictional show. Walts Breaking Bad has nothing to do with his treatment, he is told flat out he will die even with treatment, by the time he finds the expensive doctor he has cooked meth, killed 2 people and liked it. He kept going on despite, having 2 chances of having his treatment payed for, raising enough money to last 5 lifetimes and just kept killing. At the end he finally admitted it was all about himself cause he felt good and alive, I guess he never rebelled once, having a nobel price investigation and all.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      Boom. Thank you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/07/baby_in_the_u_s_or_canada_which_is_better.2.html

    “The Canadian woman couldn’t get her first appointment for eight months, although it was free. The American got an appointment right away, but it cost a fortune.”

    Slate is hardly right-wing.

    “After she delivered a healthy girl, she shelled out $300 for a private room, rather than share a ward with three other women. The money was the only amount she spent in medical costs during her whole pregnancy and labor, unless you include the annual 45 percent of her income she pays in taxes partly to help cover the cost of MCP, the health care plan for her province.*”

    45%???? Good lord. Almost half of the money you make goes to the govmnt? How demoralizing!

    • ahermit

      Yes, ‘I’ve seen this misleading story (“names have been changed”? Really? why?) before. The woman in the story wants to buy her way to the front of the line, even though she doesn’t actually need to see a specialist. Until she actually had complications and then she got to see one. The article tries to make it sound like she had to “game the system” but that’s actually how the system works; You can’t pay to cut in line, but when you need to get in line your place in line is determined by your actual medical need.

      I also doubt she’s paying 45% of her income i taxes (if she is she needs a better accountant…)

      One anonymous story (with heavy slant form the corporate funded right wing and notorioulsy dishonest Fraser Institute I notice) does not refute the data. But if you want anecdotes I can give you a few. Both my sons were born a month early, both were delivered by our family doctor and the first received specialized care for the first few weeks of his life with no wait, no hassle.

      My sister destroyed he knee in a skiing accident, in another province. She had an MRI in the emergency ward and surgery the next morning, as did my wife when she smashed her wrist skating.

      My mother’s colon cancer was detected early and dealt with surgically, no chemo or radiation. She had her surgery exactly one week after her diagnosis (only took that long because at 78 the doctors wanted to run tests and make sure she could handle the procedure…)

      My father’s lymphoma was also diagnosed early, treated successfully and the wait to see an oncologist (which we did by video conference to save him having to travel) was again about a week.

      And of course, if was so inclined I could counter that Slate article with a host of anecdotes about people whose coverage and treatment was delayed or denied by private insurance companies in the US…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        Ok. So I’m not really interested in dueling anecdotes. I’m happy for you that your family all fared well with medical care.

        I have heard otherwise from other sources, but I see no reason to go down that road. You’re happy with the system. I get it. Thanks for sharing, sincerely. (because I know that can sound sarcastic read and I don’t mean it sarcastically.)

        I do not want what is happening here with Obamacare. I think it is an extremely bad direction to go in. And I don’t think you or I are going to change each other’s minds.

        • ahermit

          The problem with Obamacare, as I see it, is that it leaves in place too many of the problems inherent with a private, profit driven model of health coverage. But it’s a small step in the right direction if you want to lower costs and broaden coverage.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

    I honestly don’t understand how you can say it’s not subsidized. So maybe you’re the one doing the subsidizing. A portion of your income is directed to the system. And some people get benefits from that system without paying in. Therefore, they are subsidized. By you, it sounds like.

    I really don’t want my hard earned money to go to paying for some alcoholic’s new liver. Or if I choose to spend my money on that, I’d like it to be by my own direction to a charity of my choice.

    • ahermit

      Is your insurance “subsidized” by the others who pay into that particular insurance program? I guess if you use the word that way it is…

      I don’t object to my money helping to pay for other people’s care while I’m healthy; others will help pay for mine when I need it. That’s how insurance works, it’s the sharing of risk between a group of contributors.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

        I’m getting the urge to type in ALL CAPS LIKE THIS.

        Never ends well, the ALL CAPS.

        In private insurance, everyone who benefits from that insurance pays into that insurance. At clearly defined rates that make economic sense to both the insurance company and the customer. You pay more, for instance, for a lower deductible. You pay less if you don’t want coverage for, say, massages. You come to a deal with the insurance company sealed with a contract. Everybody who pays in gets what they have agreed to out. Nobody gets anything for free. If you get benefits, you pay in.

        In Canada, and now in the US, you have a large number of people who do not pay into the national system. You, personally, pay their share. Always. Now, when you don’t need it and later when you do.

        They are subsidized. By you.

        That is exactly what makes it a) socialist and b) wrong.

        • ahermit

          You clearly don’t really understand how the Canadian system works. What we have is public insurance system for basic health care; everyone who has an income pays into it. If you want more coverage for things like massages (or dental care, or an optician which aren’t covered) you can buy private insurance for that.

          If there’s is any subsidy it is for those who have no resources. But the same thing exists in the US; the argument I always hear is that “everyone can get health care; just go to the emergency department…” You call that “socialist and wrong”. I guess we’ll have to disagree; I don’t think it’s ever wrong to help those who can’t help themselves…

          Of course telling people to wait until it’s bad enough to go to emergency a hell of a lot more expensive than covering basic, often preventative, care to begin with.

          And you pay higher premiums to cover those costs, whether you’re aware of it or not. So you’re probably paying a higher subsidy through your private insurer than I am through my public one. You’re also paying those higher administrative costs (currently 31% vs my 16%) and a healthy profit margin on top of that.

          At least I’m not subsidizing any overpaid corporate bureuacrats…http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/healthcare/art2914.html

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            “everyone who has an income pays into that” <—- and subsidizes those who don't.

            I don't think it's wrong to help others either. I think it's wrong to force people to help others whether they want to or not. And it's entirely debatable that they "can't help themselves." It's wrong to steal from someone to produces to give to someone who doesn't. I think it's wrong to create a class of people dependent on others instead of taking care of themselves. It's bad for them.

            Plus, it's basic fairness that you get to keep what you work for and if you work more, you keep more.

            You're right that we do have a subsidy system for medical care here. It's a mess. It will continue to be a mess as it expands to draw in more people. Of course, being sick here in the US is still better than most places, if not all, in the world. But I see nothing about the current system that justifies expanding it to cover others.

            You're very much an apologist for socialized medicine and I imagine other socialist policies. You do the classic trick of disregarding things that don't fit into your already determined posture (that Slate article is misleading but all your stories are gospel truth and there is nothing bad about your experience or that of anyone you know). Your mind is made up. So why are you spending so much energy here debating me?

          • ahermit

            I don’t think it’s wrong to help others either. I think it’s wrong to
            force people to help others whether they want to or not. And it’s
            entirely debatable that they “can’t help themselves.” It’s wrong to
            steal from someone to produces to give to someone who doesn’t. I think
            it’s wrong to create a class of people dependent on others instead of
            taking care of themselves. It’s bad for them.

            What’s your alternative? Leave them to suffer and die?

            it is not “stealing” to expect citizens to contribute to the maintenance of the society in which they live. And those who benefit most from that society should pay proportionately more for that maintenance; or so Adam Smith tells me in Wealth of Nations…

            Single payer public insurance is not “socialism” it is efficient public policy. And you would benefit from it as much as anyone by having your own costs reduced.

            being sick here in the US is still better than most places, if not all, in the world

            If you can afford it, yes. People point to waiting lists in Canada, and yes they can be a problem, but at least here you get to be on the list, and your place in line is determined by how sick you are. In your system you can’t even get into line if your privately run, profit driven insurer says no…

            Your mind is made up. So why are you spending so much energy here debating me?

            Because when I see people spreading misinformation about my country, as so often happens in your health care debate, i feel compelled to counter that misinformation with a few facts.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            “it is not “stealing” to expect citizens to contribute to the maintenance of the society in which they live. And those who benefit most from that society should pay proportionately more for that maintenance; or so Adam Smith tells me in Wealth of Nations…”

            Completely disagree here and it’s the bottom line of our disagreement. It is stealing. Why should one be punished for working hard and doing well? Why should one be rewarded for doing nothing? When you take what I have made through the sweat of my brow by force (which is what the government is) and give it to another, that is stealing.

            I am not for no taxes and no government. But I am for limited government. Government does not create wealth. It burns it. It is inefficient in providing services. In any case, I should be free to live in a trailer in the mountains, smoke, not buy health insurance, ride my motorcycle* without a helmet and die in any way that fits my life if I so choose. I don’t need the government to force me to be safe or responsible. I am not a child. And I shouldn’t be forced to carry the weight for anyone but me and mine.

            So…that’s kind of the bottom line.

            As for private health insurance refusing care. Yes. I’ve never known anyone who that happened to. And yes, denial of care NEVER happens in Canada. (That is intended to be sarcastic.) Hard choices always have to be made, until we figure out how to harvest unicorn fairy dust to solve our problems.

            Another bottom line… I live in DC. I know how reports and statistics can be massaged to say whatever anyone wants. Socialized medicine does NOT cost less. It does NOT end up costing me less than insurance premiums. I do not believe your claims. I believe your sources are flawed.

            I wanted to say one more thing about people going to emergency care versus getting preventative care. The system does not tell them to do that. There are plenty of ways those same people, poor people, can get preventative care. The problem is human nature. When it costs you nothing, why NOT go to the ER? Why NOT call an ambulance? No skin off your nose if the taxpayers pick up the bill. It’s not that these poor people are being kept from preventative care. No. The medical system begs them to do preventative care. But they are people with issues and problems, God bless them, and so they don’t. They don’t take care of themselves and they get sick and they call the ambulance. And because it’s free to them, we get stuck with a bill for thousands instead of charging them a bit, so they’d have some skin in the game, and getting a bill for hundreds.

            People never behave for the good of the collective. People always behave for the best for them and theirs. Sometimes, people sacrifice for another person when their heart is touched or faith moves them, but not for “the general good.” They bend rules, they take advantage of the system, they take what they can get.

            And that’s why the system that works with that understanding is best. Capitalism. Because we don’t say we’re doing one thing and then actually do another. We don’t pretend that we’re all in it together and then cheat and lie and take everything we can. We work hard, provide for ourselves, give when and where we choose, and trust you to do the same. (And call in the law when you don’t.)

            *Author does not, technically, have a motorcycle. Nor does she smoke. She does, however, have a tattoo.

          • ahermit

            I don;t think I’m being punished by contributing to system that benefits others as well as myself.

            i know plenty of people who work very hard but couldn’t possibly afford health insurance in the private system you have. Wealth is not always (I would say not often) a good measure of effort and a lack of wealth is not evidence of moral failure as you seem to suggest here.

            I am not for no taxes and no government. But I am for limited government. Government does not create wealth. It burns it. It is inefficient in providing services.

            Not always. As I’ve demonstrated here the public system in Canada is twice as efficient as private insurance in terms of administrative costs, lacks the drag of profit taking and provides services that are every bit as good.

            Rejecting that lower cost and paying so much more for a less efficient system because of a commitment to some kind of ideological purity just seems counter-productive to me.

            I should be free to live in a trailer in the mountains, smoke, not buy health insurance, ride my motorcycle* without a helmet and die in any
            way that fits my life if I so choose.

            And when you fall off your motorcycle and suffer a head injury should we leave you in the ditch to die? Or do you still expect to be taken to an emergency room?

            It’s not that these poor people are being kept from preventative care.

            They are if they can’t afford it. A job at MacDonald’s won;t even pay the rent most places, let alone regular visits to a doctor. Should people be punished for not being able to find a job that pays a living wage?

            because it’s free to them, we get stuck with a bill

            Yes, and that bill would be a lot lower if you had a more sensible insurance system; one with half the administrative costs, a broader base and no profit taking. Why wouldn’t you want to see those costs go down?

            People never behave for the good of the collective. People always behave for the best for them and theirs…

            What a sad cynical narrow worldview that is!

            I include my fellow citizens as part of the group of “me and mine.” I don;t mind looking out for my neighbours, and I’m glad to have them looking out for me.

            Capitalism is fine for building widgets and I-phones and I’m all for it, but not all human activity can be treated as a commodity. In other comment here you seem to have no problem with paying taxes for governemnt to provide services like security and education.If public provision of something like health insurance can produce lower costs and better service for everyone (and it clearly can and does, not just in Canada but in every major industrialized state in the world…except the US) why would anyone be opposed to that?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Maybe these people could afford it if they weren’t paying 45% of their income in taxes!!!!!!

            Let’s say it went down to 25%? A sizable increase for most people which would easily allow for private health insurance. And other things.

            And, for the record, your claim of government efficency over private sector? No. Do not believe. I would be more colorful in my language but I don’t want to go there.

          • ahermit

            Are people in the US paying 45% in taxes? I’m not…

            And, for the record, your claim of government efficency over private
            sector? No. Do not believe. I would be more colorful in my language but I
            don’t want to go there.

            Not just my claim, a well established fact. here’s more data for you:

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53942/

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            <— getting bored.

            Not a fact. A claim.

            Ha. And you don't think sites with a .gov extension are going to have a dog in the fight? A slant? A point to prove.

            Like I said, I'm getting bored.

            The 45% came from the Slate article. that was the amount the Canadian was paying. I don't pay 45%, although I think some wealthy do. I don't know what you pay in Canada.

          • ahermit

            No, it’s a fact. And I’ve given you several independant academic sources as well as the .gov data.

            The 45% came from the Slate article.

            Yeah, that article is full of that kind of crap. They’re getting th e45% nonsense from the Fraser Institute, a corporate funded “think tank” with a history of fudging the data. They get there by ignoring significant sources of income and counting every penny the government collects (including fees for direct services) as “tax”. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/don%E2%80%99t-believe-hype-what%E2%80%99s-really-behind-fraser-institute%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ctax-freedom-day%E2%80%9D

            This is misleading, to say the least.

          • ahermit

            And where are you getting this 45% nonsense?

            http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Um,so 26% federal plus 15% provincial (give or take depending on where you live) = 41%. Right? Is my math wrong?

            So pretty close to 45% for middle class. Higher for higher earners.

            That’s much higher than what I pay. We end up around 25% pretty consistently. We’d be paying significantly more in Canada.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            On 100k income…..

            41,000 in taxes in Canada.
            25,000 in taxes in America

            Difference = 16,000

            Workers pay, on average, $4550 toward their insurance premiums for a family of four (the rest being paid by the company in a compensation package)

            That would be 11, 450 more in your pocket.

            A hefty sum.

            (I realize there’s an exchange difference here, but I think the comparison can be done this way. Imagine it as either Canadian or American dollars. I don’t think it matters.)

          • ahermit

            That rate applies only to income over 89,000 a year, income up to that amount is taxed at a lower rate. You do understand how progressive tax rates work, don’t you? You’re not paying 26% of 89,000 there, you’re paying 15% on half of it *the first 43,500) 22% on the next 43,500 and if your taxable income is one dollar more than you’ll pay 26% only on that one dollar.

            So yes your math is wrong.

            Also note, that’s taxable income; actual income is reduced by deductions for housing costs, work expenses, charitable donations, child tax credits etc etc etc. I’ve never been taxed on my entire income…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Yes. I know nothing about anything. Please school me, oh wise Canadian.

          • ahermit

            Well I am trying to provide you with some pertinent information but you seem determined to reject it out of hand without even looking at it. It’s hard to teach those who aren’t willing to learn…

            If you’re going to comment on something like public health insurance in other countries don;t you think you should learn a little about them first? I’m sorry that the facts don’t fit your ideological preconceptions, but life is like that sometimes. Try setting aside those preconceptions and just look at the real world data.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Ah declaah, ah wish ah had some wise, wise Canadian down hear to remove me from mah benighted state, for ah declaah, ah am simply PERISHING in ignorance.

            Ah know nothing. Ah am but a poor, poor conservative woman. What could ah possibly know?

            If only there was a man, a real man, smellin’ of maple syrup and all dressed in plaid what could come down he-are and rescue mah!

          • ahermit

            Oh, I’m sorry. I was assuming you were mature intelligent and honest enough to want to take a look at the facts and consider the possibility that you might be mistaken. Was that wrong of me?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            You are neither the first nor the last to overestimate my maturity, oh wise Canadian.

          • ahermit

            lol…Well my motto is “you’re only young once, but you can be immature forever…”

            So at least we have that in common…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            Friend, I think you are wrong wrong wrong. I believe you mean well, but wrong. Good luck with all that.

          • ahermit

            denial of care NEVER happens in Canada. (That is intended to be sarcastic.)

            No actually, it doesn’t. If you have a social insurance number you have health insurance. Period. It can’t be revoked for “pre-existing conditions” or any other BS excuse, if you need treatment you get it. Period.

            I know how reports and statistics can be massaged to say whatever anyone
            wants. Socialized medicine does NOT cost less. It does NOT end up
            costing me less than insurance premiums. I do not believe your claims. I
            believe your sources are flawed”

            I invite you to demonstrate where and how they are flawed…otherwise you’re just sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “No it isn’t!”

            Better get to work though, there’s a hell of a lot of data behind those conclusions…

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/26/21-graphs-that-show-americas-health-care-prices-are-ludicrous/

            http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa022033#t=articleMethods

            Now please note, I am not suggesting Americans should adopt a system just like Canada’s or anyone else’s; but there are common elements in the Canadian, British and assorted European models that should be considered when you finally get around to designing a comprehensive, efficient public health care system. What you have now is badly broken, and Obamacare is a baby step toward fixing it.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            I can come up with at least as many sources as you have. I choose not to get into flinging links at each other because it’s boring.

            If every smart, sincere, and rational person thought as you did, there would be no debate. Everyone would agree. But they don’t on this issue because there is a lot of differing data, projections and concepts of what it means and how it works.

            There is a debate and if you say “well, they’re all wrong and don’t have data and you need to painstakingly refute each of my data points to be even close to being rational,” then you’re the one sticking your fingers in your ears.

            You don’t agree with them. I know that. But they are there and they are researched and they are not raving lunatics.

            Start here: http://www.aei.org/policy/health/healthcare-reform/

            Go from there. Get back to me.

          • ahermit

            Look. I’ve given you links to independent studies, data and analyses of this exact issue from a variety of sources. If you want to counter all of that you have to do better than a link to the front page of the people who gave us all that great info on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction… .>;-}

            What you’ve given me is a page of links about “Obamacare” none of which appear to actually address the disparity in administrative costs. And since Obamacre is not a public single payer system like the ones I’m talking about criticism of it doesn’t really mean anything in this context, does it? This does nothing to disprove the point, so maybe you should go do your own homework and then get back to me, okay?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

            So, listen, I could not disagree with you more, but as I was reading over this exchange I realized that you are very passionate and respectful and I wanted to say I appreciate you engaging without, you know, suggesting I kill myself or calling me names or anything.

            I’ve said before, I feel more in common with someone on the other side who cares passionately than I do with someone who can’t be bothered/doesn’t care.

            I think we want the same things…prosperity, security, freedom, and health for everyone, but we disagree on how to get there. I can respect that.

            So thanks for the conversation.

  • voirleloup.com

    Hi Rebecca,
    I am french. I live in France. You wrote :
    “That happens under socialized health care. Like, a lot. The wealthy buy
    their way out of the system and into better care. Ask anyone from
    England.”

    Well, to make it short. It is possible that millionaires get slightly better health-care down here in France, but it is not significant (they get their hospital room for themselves, they don’t share it with another patient. No big deal …)

    I guy like me (I am the contrary of a millionaire) in Walt’s situation, would know he is going to benefit from the best treatments (if he choses the right doctor … which is not necessarily more expensive.) He would know that after his death, his children will be able to study for very little money.

    This reduces the financial pressure on everybody. The average behavior is drastically different. Making a lot of money is not vital …

    This goes with quite a few defects :

    No ! … financial cost of this global health-care is not the worst : if things were optimally organized that would be easily sustainable.

    The worst is that people take the state for a big mummy above, supposed to protect them from every danger. And when shits happen, they complain (and demonstrate which is the number one outdoor convivial french way to complain.)

    Globally speaking, protected people lose their natural ability to work it out themselves, to solve problems, to be creative …. to enjoy work ans accomplishments. … And worst : they criticize those who try !

    In France Walt wouldn’t have become Heseinberg for money, it would have for fun may be … to make something happen … or i wouldn’t have.

    Anyway, he wouldn’t have sold his share of Grey Matter Co for there wouldn’t have been any Grey Matter Co probably …

    But the defects of our two systems is not, I believe, intrinsic to them. They may be a consequence of the way things are done on the ground. The implementation of theories can be worse than the theories themselves …

    To much ideology in the debate hides the importance of the way theories get applied on the ground. We don’t have to chose between communism and liberal economy. We are allowed to pick up what is good in those pre-existing systems and create something else. Bipolar political attitudes inhibits our ability to create a more efficient system.

    And now, i stop wasting my time, I go back to work. I live in France but i run my own little company (even on sunday.)
    Thanks for reading,
    :)
    Nicolas Guionnet


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