Posted by: bkivey | 9 February 2011

All The Non-News That’s Fit To Print

From the New York Times comes a story about the medical cost concerns of the survivors of the Tucson shooting last month. Or, that’s what the story headline “For Tucson Survivors, Health Care Cost Is Concern”, would lead one to think. Except that, as the fourth and fifth paragraphs reveal, there’s no story here:

But despite the fears of some victims, it does not appear that the shooting will ruin anyone financially. Interviews with victims as well as advocates assisting them suggest that most, if not all, of the 13 people wounded that morning had health insurance, and health care providers say they expect insurance companies to cover the bulk of the medical costs.

On top of that, the fact that federal charges have been filed against Jared L. Loughner in the shootings means that state victim-compensation money will be supplemented by federal help. Private charitable efforts to aid victims have also been created.

Well, if the wounded all have medical insurance, and additional funds are available to cover bills, how can there be ‘concern’ over treatment costs? One of the victims is quoted:

“I wondered, ‘How much is this going to cost me?’  It was a thought that went through my head right away.”

I can’t say what was going through someone’s head when they got shot, but I can say that as someone who’s suffered several traumatic injuries, that was not a thought I entertained at the moment of injury. For those keeping score at home, I’ve suffered four Grade III concussions and several minor ones, nineteen broken bones including seven broken ribs and breaking my left arm in a total of five different places over two incidents, a separated shoulder, and tearing all of the tendons in my right ankle. For the record, the broken ribs were the most painful injury. Never, not once, whether or not I happened to have health care insurance or not, did I ever think about what medical treatment was going to cost. My only concern was to get patched up and then the various medical providers and facilities and I could settle the bill later. Sometimes it took several years to pay the bills, but they got paid.

More evidence of the non-story turns up when the writers mention one gentleman whose health insurance had a $10,000 deductible, but note that he

 ‘ ‘. . . will most likely benefit from the plethora of special public and private victim funds to fill gaps in his coverage.”

While no one ever expects to get shot, especially at a political gathering in broad daylight, if you choose a plan with a high deductible in order secure a low premium, you’ve got to be prepared for the fact that your gamble may not pay off, and you’ll have to pay that deductible. That’s entirely a personal decision, and only a ‘concern’ if you’re not comfortable with the level of risk you’ve taken on.

Were I of a cynical bent, I’d say that the entire non-story is a thinly veiled attempt to gin up support for socialized medicine by attempting to politicize the Tucson massacre as an illustration of a problem that, at least for the survivors of the shooting, doesn’t actually exist.

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