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On Health Care, Briefly

The Times’ recent attempt to blame Americans’ debt crunch on conspicuous consumption has been justly criticized, but I would like to return to it again, if only to kick it when it’s down. Off the top of my head, long before I would list desire for an Escalade, I would list wage stagnation and the fast-rising costs of child care, education, and health care as primary causes of average household debt. Health care in particular can be one of the most prohibitive and sudden expenses in any household. Indeed, it’s so prohibitive that many Americans do not even seek medical care when they need it. Last November and December alone, our own visits to the doctor racked up 6% of our income for last year, and that in spite of the fact that I have decent coverage through my job. And the bills could have been more. That we had some savings—now, wiped out; that we were able to shift some funds from here to there are the only reasons we did not have to put it all on plastic. I do not claim my story to be representative, but indicative: many American households face starker choices than that between saving up for that new Prada handbag or charging it now. The Times was irresponsible for suggesting otherwise.

 

Comments

I’ll have to see what percentage of my income my medical care turns out to be. If you added in the time I spent fighting with billing offices and and insurance companies, it would really add up.

That’s the problem with having savings, of course—you have them, and so something happens. It’s better than having stuff happen and not having savings, but it doesn’t always seem that way.

Re: savings. Good point; we’ve had stuff happen when we didn’t have savings. It wasn’t a happy time for us.

Don’t get K started on billing offices.

Oh, and look, more junk from the NYT.

Some day I will happily exchange billing office stories with K, preferably in some place where I can a) drink and b) throw things.

OMG! That article! It’s bad enough that the writer felt it necessary to write a sentence that begins, “While some of these families are mired in poverty.” It’s worse that it depends upon the assumption that VCRs equal a flat commodity, a universal marker of wealth despite the fact that they are cheaper (thanks in large part to exploited labor).