Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Case for Socialized Everything

As you may know, I moved recently. My colleague moved recently. Jodi is moving. Based on our three experiences, let me say this: Government-regulated monopolies = good. Marketplace = Fuck. You.

Now, normally I'm a free-market, capitalism-is-good kind of girl. Even though I nearly flunked freshman economics (it was micro! I'm more of a macro-thinker) I believe letting the marketplace work itself out is usually a good thing.

But I've moved twice in the past year, and Verizon can suck a sweaty goat ball. Comcast and Cox can blow me.

However I kind of love Dominion Power, Washington Gas, and Fairfax County Water.

My electricity works. So does my stove and hot water heater. I have clean water that is safe for my children to drink and bathe in - and all I have to do to get it is turn on the faucet. These utilities are and have been extremely reliable, and shutting them off and turning them on was really easy.

More importantly, these companies delivered the service changes they promised when I made the initial call. One call. Request made, service changed. Done.

Verizon? Not so much. Comcast was an ass-pimple about the remaining months on our MLB package. Cox lost our install order for the rental house and so thoroughly screwed up the install on this place they ought to be paying us a monthly fee.

My colleague's experience with DirecTV confirms they're not any better about installation and customer service. And don't get Work Sarah started on her Verizon experience. Really. Do. Not. (I'm serious. Don't.)

So my conclusion is this: yes, we have several choices for phone/cable/internet (and hell, I'll throw in cellphone service too), but what difference does it make when they ALL suck?

You only notice utilities when you move, or they don't work. Kind of like health care, which only matters when you need it.

Will having a government option mean health care will work like my utilities? Will a government health care plan be efficient and helpful and reliable? Or will it mean all insurance plans will become phone/cable/internet providers, delivering spotty service with a customer helpline mantra of "just get this asshole off the phone, and make her call back later when she'll be someone else's problem"?

I imagine your answer depends a lot on your political views, and on whether or not you currently have insurance you're pretty happy with (and I'm guessing you do). While health care and utilities are not completely comparable for a lot of reasons, I use this example - which I admit is counter intuitive - to suggest that government-related things are not always bad. They sometimes even compare favorably to the non-government options.

And for those of us with insurance, yes, we have a lot to lose. We don't want our health care to become phone/cable/internet-ified. But we also know it doesn't take much to join the ranks of the millions of uninsured. And in the end, this health care proposal isn't aimed at us. It's aimed at those uninsured we don't wish to become. Those who lack basic care; who bring their children to the ER for pinkeye, because there's no where else to go and the baby looks so sick.

We need health care reform because we can control those costs - that baby in the ER can cost a lot less somewhere else - and we need to capture those savings. The health insurance industry exists because it is profitable, and maybe those profits represent money that could be better spent on other things.

This health care proposal really isn't for us, the happily-insured; but we sure can stand in its way.


Beth Fish said...

I was all set to tell you my Verizon horror story, but then you went and got all thoughtful and intelligent. Guess I will have to save it for another day.

Lumpyheadsmom said...

Tell me! Tell me! I wanna hear it.

Julie said...

Make it so! You have that kind of power, right?

Molly said...

You know, you just articulated something that I've been thinking but haven't really been able to put into words. And having just moved myself, let me just say, yeah. Totally.

Auntly H said...

I am lucky to have health insurance, yes. But, I am one of those people who really needs it, pretty much all the freaking time. And in my experience with three, no, four different companies in the last 10 years, I can tell you the insurance industry is already "Verizon-ified." And I'm just at the beginning of a big-looking war (yes, several battles) with the latest. Diabetes is easy compared to dealing with insurance villains.

Em said...

Seconding AuntlyH (not the first time, nor will it be the last)... I can get my migraine meds of choice through my current insurer, but it costs more than twice as much (well over $100/month) as the medicine *they* want me to take. Pain.In.The.Ass.

Plus our health insurance monthly premium is half of what our mortgage is and roughly four times what we pay for electricity and 12 times what we pay for water. So that makes water and elec. look like pretty good deals.

jodifur said...

thanks for the link, and what and incredibley thoughtful unranty post.

Good for you!

Steve said...

UGH, I'm hating Cox as well. They weren't compatible with the Tivo for three weeks.

Plus, they messed with our surround sound so now we really only have "Front-right" sound....which btw, is not really that cool at all.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you! Dominion Power, Washington Gas, and Fairfax County Water have always been great utility companies to deal with, but Cox and Verizon irritate me to no end. Boo.

Gunfighter said...

I knew that there was a reason that I liked you.

I'm not crazy, just well mixed! said...

The entire healthcare industry needs complete reformation - government,group or private. I am concerned that government ins will end up similar to the Medicaid or the Medicare system. After spending 15 years in the industry, I can promise you they are both very scary things. Care is less than acceptable on Medicaid and Medicare makes no sense. Examples: On more than one occassion, I've seen a child have several teeth pulled instead of fillings put in because Medicaid didn't pay enough for the fillings and the dentist was worried about profits. Medicare will pay $400 for a $25 wrist brace but will not cover a $50 shower chair so Grandma doesn't fall and break a hip - But they'll cover the hospital stay/hip replacement.

Private ins is run by business degrees in suits rather than by medical professionals. I'm not comfortable with a business major making decisions on what type of care I can or can't have.

I hate insurance but, it is definitely needed and a great thing to have. (I have ins and I am grateful but I'm not happy with it) I hope the government puts a lot of thought into it and does it well. Something needs to be done. My fingers are crossed.

I'm not crazy, just well mixed! said...

Oh, and Washington Gas and I had words. They were not pleasant words. However, my gas was turned on when expected. It's the turning off at our apartment that was the problem.

nonlineargirl said...

Sorry to be all wonky but health care reform kind of is for us insured folks too. Did you know that about 10% of your premiums pay for care for the uninsured? (the hospitals jack up their prices on the insured to cover the "uncompensated" care they provide, so insurance companies pass that along to us, to the tune of a hell of a lot of money). Why not just make that hidden tax manifest, and provide care to the now uninsured in a much more reasonable way than "wait until I am at death's door and then go to the ER"?

Oh, and I still love stuff on Nathan Jr's head.