Michael on September 25th, 2009
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You: Wait a second. This is a personal finance blog. Why are you weighing in on health care reform?

First, I’m not actually weigh in on what plan should be followed.  Rather, I am reporting some observations about our behavior. Second, health care reform is very much a financial planning topic.

You: How so?

In several ways. Here are just a few:

  • The largest issue concerning health care reform is health insurance. While the debate about health insurance is both variable and plentiful (e.g., its affordability, administration, even its very existence), health insurance remains the number one issue of health care reform.  Long time readers know that insurance is a cornerstone personal financial planning topic.
  • Health care reform is extremely likely to cause changes in what we pay for medical services.  This is both a cash-flow issue (changes in co-pays, deductibles, and premiums) and a tax issue (since surtaxes, to help pay for reform, and penalties, to ensure compliance, are under discussion). Again, cash-flow and tax are major components to sound financial planning.
  • Changes to flexible spending plans (like the elimination of their use for non-prescription medicines) are also under consideration.  This gets at benefit planning, yet another key financial planning topic.

I could certainly go on.

You: I get the point.  Health care reform will definitely affect most people’s finances.


You: So you’ve explained how health care reform is a personal finance topic, but not why are people so rude when discussing health care reform.

As was reported in Friends Don’t Let Friends Bring Up Health Care, a wonderful article first appearing in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, causes for overtly rude behavior include the Internet and our role models.

You: The Internet?  Why?

As the article reports and you may have observed, people write things online they would never say to a person’s face.

You: Did you see the town hall meetings on TV?

I sure did and point taken.  Now multiply it by a million and you have some idea of the scale of rudeness permeating sites like Facebook (supposedly, and quite ironically only connecting you with friends), and Twitter.

You: Is it really a problem?

I think so.  I do my best to stay apolitical except among my closest friends and family.  I don’t participate in political discussions with people I don’t know, let alone potential clients or supporters.  But not everyone else checks themselves in that way.  (Not to say my approach is better, but it has its merits.). Have you ever hid someone’s comments on Facebook or stopped following someone on Twitter because of their relentless one-sided presentation of their opinions?   I have – and not just those I’ve disagreed with!

Other reasons for the rude behavior, in my opinion, include:

  • Health care reform is going to affect our pocketbooks, no matter the final outcome. Most people must very work hard for their money and want it choose how to spend it.  No matter which course is taken, we will cede some control of our money as a result of health care reform.  (We may also cede greater control of our medical care, but I don’t get the sense we’re as upset about that possibility as the possibility of losing more control of our money).  Feeling like one is losing control can often lead to rude behavior.
  • Health care reform is really complicated. Health care reform touches nearly every part of the government and our personal affairs.  It simply cannot be addressed adequately in a four minute cable news interview, let alone a sound bite on the 6PM news.  Yet the media’s desire to give us what we want (quick one-liners we can both repeat to our friends and help us convince ourselves we actually understand the true complexity) leads an endless sea of frustration.  After all, every sound bite can be countered with another.  True philosophical conversations around health care reform are much harder than they were about responding to the attacks on 9/11 or Pearl Harbor (though there were critics of our action following both of those events as well).  Things seemed easier to understand, no matter which side of the issue you were on.  When people are more confused yet feel forced to take an opinion, they are more likely to become rude when challenged.
  • Most people don’t like uncertainty and we have a lot of that already.  Due to the economic meltdown and related rise in unemployment, there was growing unease well before the health care reform debate really got going. Now we’re forming opinions during a time when we’re a bit less unsettled than we were a couple of years ago.  At best, it’s a bit uncomfortable  At worst, it’s stressful. People are more likely to be rude when they’re stressed.

You’ve just read Pandora’s box. Feel free to open your can of worms and place your comment below.  Bonus points if you can keep it civil.

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2 Comments to “Health care reform and rude behavior”

  1. Michael, I agree with you that we need some sort of health care reform. I also agree that some of the behavior has been, to put it mildly, hard to stomach. I have two big questions that Congress seems to ignore when considering options.

    1) Why should the rules of health care insurance be any different than the rules for car or home insurance? Wouldn’t insurance prices reduce through competition if employers stop offering health insurance? I work for a Fortune 100 company with 50,000 employees. Wouldn’t the risk pool be larger if the pool is millions of employees instead of 50,000 employees?

    2) I don’t want to get too political, but does a government health care option increase the size of an organization with many career employees? I have long contended that any career person wants to see their organization become more dominant over time. Since we have so many politicians with long experience, does it make sense that they would want to consolidate their power like a business would want to do?

    Like I said earlier, I know we need health care reform. However, I believe we can do this without the major increases we are painfully experiencing or with additional government intervention.

  2. Michael says:

    @Dallon: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions

    Re # 1: That only works in there is an “individual mandate” where everyone is forced to get coverage. Even the most aggressive bills out there don’t require that, instead proposing a tax/penalty for failing to insure. As long as participation in the the pool is voluntary, risk is not minimized for the carrier/provider simply by an increased number of participants due to adverse selection. Not saying I support the mandate, just explaining why costs might not go down.

    Re # 2: I agree with you and I don’t think it’s a political comment, as I’ve seen “empire building” at all organizations, big and small, private and public, for-profit and not-for-profit.

    It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out, no?

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