Here are two things you might not know about health care. First, health emergencies – drawn-out illnesses – are responsible for more bankruptcies in this country than anything else. And second, ill health has the power to zap the happiness from your life faster than anything else: a bad marriage, a job loss, unruly kids. When you’re sick, in other words, very little else matters. The health-care overhaul should help in both instances.
Emergencies first. Interestingly enough, it’s not the poorest people in this country who go bankrupt for health reasons. They’re already receiving government assistance and often get surprisingly decent care. It’s those people with assets – often with insurance – who exceed the lifetime income caps of their policies because cancer has recurred, and are booted from their plans. Six months from the time the legislation is enacted this will be a non-issue.
As for the worry – and pain – people who live with ill health face day in and day out, I’m also optimistic for a fix. The fact that folks with pre-existing conditions will no longer be able to be denied coverage will alleviate the worry and the stress that only adds to their burden and daily misery. The fact that four years have to lapse between now and then is a downer, but perhaps the government will escalate the calendar in the tweaking. Will it solve the problem completely? No. That — notes Elizabeth Kolbert reviewing Derek Bok’s new book, The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn From the New Research on Well-Being, in the latest issue of the New Yorker — is what Oxycotin is for.
Dr. Gregory House would agree.