I guess it's only fitting in the afterglow of the Golden Globes that at least one fan of universal health care takes the stage to talk about how wonderful it is.
Emmy Rossum, one of Hollywood’s latest “it” girls (or so my teenaged daughter tells me), sat down with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel late last week to recall her Christmas trip to the United Kingdom. Apparently, she got food poisoning — at least she eats — and had to go to the hospital.
“The hospitals are amazing there,” she effused to the dopey late-night jokester. “They don’t even ask for your ID. You give your name. You give your symptoms. They hook you up to a bunch of fluids. They say just leave when you feel like it. You pay nothing!”
Let’s set aside for a second the fact that she could easily afford to pay more than nothing.
What’s worse is how tragically common this perspective is among Yankees. They see the end result — and the lack of a back-breaking medical bill — and marvel about free and amazing health care can be.
And this is exactly where consumer-driven health care can change that mind-set. Because until we can get past this concept of “free” health care, we’ll never change how we use it or pay for it. Price transparency and having to actually foot your own bill will certainly fix all these Hollywood illusions of the magic of European health care. It might be universal, but it’s also universally expensive. I can’t help but wonder if Rossum would gush as passionately about her tax bill in England…
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the New York Times, among others, wringing their hands and fretting about how only the sick and elderly are signing up for our own version of free health care.
By the end of the year, a third of the 2.2 million of new exchange enrollees fell between the ages of 55 and 64, according Health and Humans Services reported this week. Only 24 percent of the 18-to-34-year-old set signed up.
This isn’t news to anyone, except for maybe the mainstream press and pundits. Everyone knew the ones most likely to use health care would be the first ones in line to sign up for it.
And while the numbers aren’t skewing that badly, something else we already knew is that the younger, healthy insureds would wait to sign up. It isn’t like they’re being sold the latest Apple product.
We’re still two months away from the close of open enrollment, so I think it's willfully — and irresponsibly — premature to start screaming about the falling sky. If we find out in March that the numbers haven’t shifted appropriately, then I’ll be the first to cry foul. Pardon me if I wait until all the facts are in.
Besides, what millennial do you know doesn’t wait until the last minute? Especially when you’re asking them to pay through the nose for something they’ll probably never use?