Column on What of Pre-Existing Conditions?

What Of Pre-exiting Conditions? 

Tibor R. Machan

Here is what some would consider a hard case: Someone very ill is attempting to purchase insurance but companies refuse to provide it because they have a pretty good idea that covering the illness will cost very big bucks, way above what the insured and others with similar conditions can help cover.  The policy costs far less than what they expect to have to spend on the sizable number of patients in this situation, so they don’t want to take on this expense.

This is a picture that may seem to tell just one story, namely, how greedy, uncaring, narrowly self-interested  are those who own and run insurance companies.  But it could also tell the story that the applicant did not think to buy insurance early enough in life when the malady hadn’t occurred yet.  Another story therein could be that the malady came about through risky or outright self-destructive activities on the part of the applicant–excessive drinking, excessive smoking, dangerous sports, a hazardous lifestyle in general.  Or plain bad luck could also be involved–even the most careful among us can meet with unforeseen mishaps and unless we prepared for them early enough in life, they will cost a bundle to deal with and one might be on one’s own to do this now.  

No one else but a loved one is morally–let alone legally–obligated to help out in such cases, if even he or she! In certain fields what the prospective patient is doing is called dumping–as when a manufacturing plant dumps its waste into the air mass or water ways for others to have to deal with it.  In the area of environmental ethics and law, this is harshly condemned, by the way.  But why not say, instead, "How selfish of us to want firms to take care of their own waste"? Yes, the waste comes with the task the company is involved in, producing cars or steel or whatever, but that is where pricing comes in.  Charge customers enough to cover cost and then some, to make a profit, too.   Or don’t take on tasks you cannot handle economically.  And this is just the attitude of many insurance company managers and owners!

Individuals who grow up in relatively advanced societies can usually come to be aware of life’s risks early enough to take precautionary measures, such as purchasing insurance before maladies come around.  Indeed, that’s the point of insurance.  The companies make big bucks because although the possibility of maladies exists, the probability of them is not that great.  Many more people buy insurance than need to draw on the funds available to them from it in their lifetime.

But even quite apart from all this, which is but common sense, however unfortunate a situation one may be in, it is morally obscene to demand that others fix it at their expense. Again, think of pollution–we expect the polluters to handle it, not their neighbors even if the pollution came about through doing very worthwhile things! These others have their own problems to attend to and apart from intimates for whom they care and for whom they may actually be directly responsible, all contributions to the well being of strangers has to be a matter of charity or philanthropy.  And these may not be coerced out of anyone–it stops being charity and giving then and becomes straightforward larceny.

Sure, once all this is grasped maybe drastic changes in how one goes about taking care of oneself need to be adopted.  But others are not one’s involuntary servants, slaves or serfs.  They are supposedly free and sovereign persons and may make decisions about how to live their lives without others intrusions.  Even the totally accidental mishap of others cannot amount to a source of legally enforceable obligations for them!

Well, yes, that used to be the idea of the American way of life but sadly not with the bulk of the current crop of politicians running things and their cheerleaders urging them on.

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