Guest Column: Having health care and free insurance much different

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alden resident Ebenezer Howe is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the local party members.

Marginal utility: The principal that all economics works on. Everyone is trying to increase their marginal utility.  You trade one thing for another thing that improves your life, satisfies a want or a need. You continue to do this until the next trade is no longer beneficial toward the goal of increasing your utility (hence the term marginal).

Ebenezer Howe

Example: If farmer A has five horses and farmer B has five cows both might be content, but farmer A might like a cow for milk and farmer B might like a horse to ride, so they choose to trade. Now farmer A has four horses and a cow while farmer B has four cows and a horse, and both are better off than before the trade. Maybe they trade a second time because now farmer B can make a two-horse team to pull a cart and farmer A has two cows for milk. There could be any number of reasons to trade a second time. However, this trade has less margin because the value of the first trade had a bigger impact on both traders than the second trade. Now farmer A may be interested in trading a third time because he feels the third cow is more valuable than his third horse. But, if farmer B feels the same, no trade will be made because the margin for the trade for farmer B would be negative.

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While this is a very simplistic example, this is how all free market economics work, on the concept of marginal utility.

Recently there was a dust up over this concept, and I was glad to see Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy say what needed to be said regarding servicing those paying full rate first before those paying reduced rates. You need to go back and look at his full quote, not what was said that he said. “We’re asking if the patient has commercial insurance, or they’re Medicaid or Medicare patients and they’re equal, that we prioritize the commercial insured patients enough so we can be financially strong at the end of the year to continue to advance our mission.” Seemed most people paid zero attention to the “and they’re equal” part of his quote.

It is the folks paying the full bill who give Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea the resources to be real good at what they do. If they were not good, I doubt the parking lot would be so full every time you go there.

I say they are good at what they do because that is the experience I have had. I went to them because my knees hurt sometimes. After the orthopedics guy got done telling me that I had some arthritis and wear, which may lead to fake knees, he said, “Oh but I would be more worried about this dark spot here. That means you have plaque in your arteries, and if you have it in your knees you most likely have it around your heart. If you have chest pains, go immediately to the emergency room, you are probably having a heart attack.” Well, not thinking so good about that kind of talk, I followed up with a visit to my primary guy. He suggested a test, not covered by insurance, but one that would tell the most about plaque in that part of my body. I had very high marginal utility for the $100 cost of that test. Yep, I was full of plaque, but inside the arteries or outside? Failed stress test said inside. My Mayo, Albert Lea cardiologist and team of folks in Rochester had me scheduled for a procedure four days later where they found I was not an easy fix. I opted for a handful of stents instead of bypass surgery. It was 15 days from results of the test that said, yep plaque, to scheduling cardiac rehab following the stents. We are fortunate to be part of the Mayo system and as close to Rochester as we are. There seems to be a lot of expertise right close by.

Above was health care. There is a big difference between it and free insurance. The folks pushing free insurance just use the wrong term — on purpose, of course, to change the playing field.