Health Insurance: Committed vs. Involved

Jonathan Crystal
Jonathan Crystal
CFO, Crystal & Company

Bloomberg Businessweek announced on Twitter that, over the next year, their reporters will follow a dozen American families who decided to go without health insurance. Bloomberg is calling the project “Risking It," describing it as “an effort to understand the trade-offs when a dollar spent on health insurance can’t be spent on something else.”

One can anticipate the story that will be published next year: it will feature anecdotes of families facing severe financial hardship or adverse health outcomes, as well as some families benefiting financially from going uninsured.

What’s ironic about this project is that it illustrates the difference between “insurance” and “gambling.”

The endeavor mostly reminds me of the old fable about the difference between the chicken and the pig in a breakfast of ham and eggs: the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

Each of those dozen families lives with the real risk of illness or injury and will live with the real consequences of making the gut-wrenching financial decision of whether or not to avail themselves of pooling their risk with others and transferring that risk to an insurance company through the purchase of insurance. They are committed.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, is involved in speculation. They are gambling that they will have a worthwhile story to publish at the end of the year after investing considerable resources to follow these families. Regardless of the outcome, Bloomberg will not have nearly as much on the line as the families they are following.

Bottom Line: This journalism exercise will doubtless show that insurance is the thin line between relative financial security and absolute financial ruin for many individuals, families and organizations.

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