Be careful assigning “responsibilities” that cost money

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about “adults” who were too “irresponsible” to buy health insurance, and how that’s forced Obamacare on us, or how Obamacare is going to fix that or something. (Side note: the real problem with healthcare is that they charge way the hell too much. Just in case you’re wondering.)

People making these remarks are talking about some straw person who buys an iPhone instead of health care insurance – as if the $88/month cost of my iphone could cover a policy for any adult, but I digress. I haven’t met anyone who’s bought a gadget instead of insurance. But I do know many, many people who choose to pay for housing or food instead of health insurance.

But when I confront these folks, they just will not deal with what I’m talking about. They continue to make blanket statements about the “irresponsibility” of adults who don’t purchase health care in the US. Healthcare, in case you don’t know, can easily cost $1000/month, even for a healthy individual.

The green movement is another thing. Sure, it would be great if everyone would trick out their home to be more green, but (a) some of us don’t own homes and (b) some of us can barely afford our mortgages. Sure, it would be great if everyone lived closer to work, but the proximity of jobs tends to drive housing costs up – even rent. Jobs aren’t always where the decent schools are, either.

Unless you’re rather affluent, you simply cannot be expected to make all of the most responsible possible choices available to human experience. The next time you’re dealing with someone who thinks this way, here are a few irresponsible choices you might be able to accuse them of which are far less expensive than health care. Then when they give their “but” reasons for not adhering to those principles, you can point out that they’re much less expensive than paying for healthcare, so why on earth not?

  • It’s so irresponsible that people buy clothing made abroad instead of having all their clothing custom made by someone here in the US, with fabric manufactured here.
  • It’s so irresponsible that people drive cars instead of bicycling/using public transportation.
  • It’s so irresponsible that people take tax deductions when we’re having a major financial crisis.
  • It’s so irresponsible to shop at Wal-Mart, known for its abuses of employees, competitors and so on.

You get the idea. There is simply no reason to set the bar at “spend $1000 on healthcare every month” instead of “spend a few thousand/year on a custom wardrobe that makes no use whatsoever of foreign factory abuses.”

Perhaps the better goal is to create a society that empowers people to make these choices. Demanding that people not shop at Wal-Mart or buy health insurance is denying the less affluent the chance to be part of change. Creating other choices for the less affluent – that’s the most responsible goal we could be working toward.


  1. Nathan says

    That’s why you should have the Australian system, which involves everyone paying a levy of 1.5% (on top of tax) to cover Medicare. Medicare provides everyone access to public health care for free, free eye tests, free surgery (most surgery’s), and the PBS scheme (which reduces the cost of pharmaceutical drugs). On top of Medicare people may choose to have private health insurance which adds on more benefits.
    Also just a quick note on choice; sure its well and good to say people should make choices however people can then make poor choices and if people are spending welfare money on luxury goods (cars, TV’s, cigarettes) do they have a right to complain about not getting health care?

  2. Jennifer Kesler says


    Sounds like a good system. As for your second paragraph, welfare in the US provides about $900/month to a family of four, and food stamps come to something like $6/day. Even buying cigarettes (far cheaper than TVs or car payments) would be a real struggle on that kind of money. I’m far more concerned about corporate welfare, which happens when big businesses make either greedy or stupid choices and then get bailed out by a sympathetic government. Some people aren’t great at making choices, but they still have to try to live their lives. No one absolutely has to start a company – if someone runs a big business into the ground out of stupidity or greed, I’d rather see them homeless than someone whose big mistake in life was to take up a highly addictive cigarette habit, usually at the sort of young age where humans aren’t known for having good judgment.

  3. Cactus says

    Another one to throw at people who are making weird “responsibility” accusations: “Isn’t it irresponsible for you to have children when humans are the ones destroying the planet?”

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