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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

Paris, JFK, Medicare & Me

Posted Monday, August 17, 2009, at 8:29 AM

Our auto insurance agent is Ted Paris, area representative for Allstate Insurance Company. That is neither an endorsement nor commercial, just a fact. We inherited Ted from his predecessor, Dave Snyder. Dave, I inherited from our son Nathan because I was named on his policy when we first moved to Indiana.

I guess Ted is OK for an agent. Never gave it a lot of thought, just don't like to make changes. Also, in 12 years we've not had a claim; so don't know how he'd do in a pinch.

This is the way insurance is supposed to work. It's called the "law of large numbers." A whole lot of people pay into a really big pot, and those few who have an accident dip into the pot to pay off their loss. As that guy on TV says, we pay into the thing "just-in-case."

Someday I will have to find out whether Ted gets whatever is left in the pot?

My healthcare pot is a different story. As of last October all my medical bills go first to something called Medicare, which also came to me without any particular effort on my part. Anything not paid by the feds is paid by other insurance. Never try to figure out whom or what, that's why insurance clerks make the big bucks.

Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson after a battle in Congress first launched when I was two years old. Supported by Senator and then President John Kennedy, it is ironic that LBJ might not have had the political clout to get it passed if JFK had not been shot down in Dallas.

Medicare actually made a lot of sense at the time.

First, in 1965 there were a lot more people paying in than people taking out of it. And, a man who reached 65 had about 5 years to live, with not a lot of medical stuff available to keep him going much longer. Also, it was one more way to encourage people to retire -- freeing up jobs for younger workers to pay in to the ever growing pot.

For better or for worse, though, money chases money.

Nobody invests in finding ways to have more automobiles crash, there's no profit to be had. But once there was going to be money to pay for senior citizen care, there was money available for research into keeping those citizens going as long as possible. My dad died in 1966 of heart problems for which solutions, unknown then, have been used on me more often than I care to remember. It is within the realm of possible alternatives that I am alive today because JFK gave way to LBJ.

Me? The philosopher in me is left, as usual, with more questions than answers.

Medical insurance isn't really "Insurance". It's not just-in case, it's when and how? Not everybody rams their car into another one; almost everyone gets sick and most incur final medical expense.

In all this talk about "reform", maybe what we all need is a fresh look at the problem (problems?). Could we at least look for a new way to do whatever we're going to do without calling it "insurance"?

Am I (me, myself alone) entitled to all possible health care -- keeping me alive long after I'd prefer the alternative? Entitled even if the costs come to exceed everything our nine grandchildren live to pay into the pot?

Car insurance is easier to understand, ain't it Ted?

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@joink.com.



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