The Day After The House Burned Down

Thursday, December 15, 2011
This is a post about someone with cancer. I have not met Ms. Ward, nor do I think that I ever will, but I wish her a successful recovery. This post may take issue with some of her choices and many of her conclusions. These differences should not be interpreted as personal. They are not. Too many of our discussions have devolved into the personal as they abandon fact and reason. This blog champions a polite discussion of the facts.

Spike Dolomite Ward has cancer. Ms. Ward is a forty-nine year old married mother of two. She lives in California. This past Sunday’s Plain Dealer included an article she wrote that initially appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Ward explained why she hasn’t had health insurance for over two years. Trust her, it is not her fault.

The key element, the point that requires ten paragraphs to justify, is that she has been saved by President Obama and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). How you ask? Will the President be administering the Chemo? No, but close. As we have discussed before, the PPACA included the creation of guaranteed issue policies that cover pre-existing conditions for people who have been uninsured for over six months.

  • Significant medical condition like cancer? Check.

  • About to have lots of expensive treatments? Check.

  • Uninsured for over six months? Check.

  • Insurance now seems like a really, really good idea? CHECK.


I completely understand the need to purchase homeowners insurance now that my house has burned to the ground.

Please read Ms. Ward’s article. It is entirely possible that the laws in California are very different from those here in Ohio. It is also possible that there is a touch of exaggeration and hyperbole in those first ten paragraphs. Don’t get lost in the details. They aren’t relevant. This post is about the uninsured and the individual mandate.

We are, or at least should be, responsible for our choices. Ms. Ward is not alone. There are millions of uninsured Americans. The poor have Medicaid, a program that should have received a lot more attention in the last two years. It is the working poor that are falling through our system’s cracks. There is also a large segment of the population who simply choose to spend the money on other stuff. I refuse to speculate as to Ms. Ward and her family’s status.

Ms. Ward is correct. Her life choices, her insurance choices, her and her husband’s job choices could have had devastating consequences. Instead, someone else, you, will pay the bills. Any solution that includes guaranteed issue and the complete coverage of preexisting conditions must include a mandate that requires everyone to have insurance.

The individual mandate has been both championed and disparaged by everyone from Newt Gingrich to Barack Obama. One day they embrace it. The next day they flee from the concept. As an agent, as someone in the system for thirty-three years, I am convinced that requiring people to participate is the only way a guaranteed issue plan would work. This is not limited to private insurance programs. A government plan is just as dependent on universal participation. That is why Medicare Part B and Part D penalize late enrollees.

All of the candidates expressed their hatred of the individual mandate at last week’s Republican debate. I understand. They are running for president. But the time has come to stop telling us that you hate “Obamacare” and to instead offer a realistic alternative. Better yet, there are lots of serious people waiting to hear any viable option that doesn’t include an individual mandate.

Whether or not an alternative is ever proposed and passed, we wish a full and speedy recovery to Ms. Ward. And we wonder how in the world we can afford all of the other Spike Dolomite Wards we are going to be supporting.