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Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Obamacare Op-Ed Response

Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece in the Sunday New York Times in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

But instead of making a good case for the ACA, he made the argument that the ACA needs to stand to support people who are completely irresponsible and have no excuse for not buying insurance.

Here is the summary of his piece:

  • He went to Harvard with this person he grew up with in Oregon.
  • In 2003 his friend had a mid-life crisis and quit his job as a pension consultant.
  • He did little more than read books for the next year. Here are his words – “For the next year I did little besides read books I’d always wanted to read and play poker in the local card rooms.”
  • He didn’t buy a health insurance policy – even though he knew he should because ” I knew it would be really expensive in the individual policy market, because many of the people in this market are high risk.”
  • He finally got himself a job, but continued to not buy health insurance – pretty much just to save himself some money.
  • Then he starts showing symptoms of prostate cancer, and doesn’t do anything about it until he gets a 102 degree fever.
  • A half million dollars later in charity care and he is still fighting for his life.

Then Kristof concludes that someone like Scott should be able to go buy a policy after he has decided to not buy a policy, even though he had the means to do so.

This is precisely the type of behavior which will help drive premiums through the roof for the rest of us.

If people who delay buying coverage are able to purchase a policy when they are sick, this will significantly increase the cost to people who are presently buying coverage.

He also is ignoring the fact that he did get care – just like so many other people like him across the country – which he had to pay very little for out of his own pocket.

And the charity care costs those of us with insurance very little because the hospitals and doctors delivering it are making solid profits and they have the room to donate 5.8% of their time. Yes, that is about the average of hospital’s uncompensated care throughout the US. (Source: American Hospital Association, “Uncompensated Hospital Care Cost Fact Sheet,” November 2009.).

He just focuses on the story of his friend, who had every advantage in life and just checked out and didn’t do what he should have done.

It was a bad attempt to use the marketing strategy outlined very clearly in the book “Made to Stick”, where you tell the story of a real person to get people to do things like donate to charity or vote for a candidate. By the way, this book is required reading for all you serious marketers out there.

Here is the link to the article Kristof Obamacare Article

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