Wednesday, December 30, 2009

(click on image to enlarge)
A Couple of Car Rentals
I had occasion to rent two cars in recent weeks. The first was a one-hour Zipcar to run an errand while my old Passat was in the shop. The second was a ten-minute van rental. The Zipcar cost $8 for the hour. The van was a little higher. It came to $943, which is $5,658 on an hourly basis or $135,792 for a full 24 hour day rate.
Of course, the van was chauffered and had the word Ambulance written backwards on its front end. It transported me nine-tenths of a mile from my health plan to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where the driver and the other EMT on board checked me in and then joshed a bit with their colleagues in the lobby of the ER before heading off to their next run.
I’m sure the owners of the ambulance outfit can cite the enormous expense of running such an operation and would claim only modest, if any, profit. Hell, they might even be right--but I doubt it.
There are lots of things that separate our health care system from those of real first world countries. The most glaring are the numbers: they’re way out in the exosphere. Near a grand for a shorty ambulance ride! Drugs at $200 that cost $20 in Canada! Surgeries for a few thousand in Europe that are billed here at tens and even hundreds of thousands! U.S. health insurance execs with ‘compensation packages’ soaring into the hundreds of millions! Multi-billion dollar annual profits by the major health care players!
None of this will change when Obama’s health care bill goes into effect. The preposturous numbers will rise to humongous numbers, and then to whatever superlative comes above that. Indeed, the bill was written to insure that progression.
These, of course, are bubble prices, with no relation to reality. But there is no bubble in health care. Never was and never will be. Demand to stay alive and well is constant. Given that reality, the rules of the free market dictate that those who can keep us keeping on on this side of the River Styx can charge whatever the demand for survival will bear.
It’s openly admitted that 45,000 Americans cross that stream every year because they didn’t have the money to stay alive. If four or five of them had been killed by terrorists, we’d spend billions bombing bedouins into oblivion. But to croak from being broke, who cares?
Such deaths hardly exist in the real first world. There people are terrorized by socialistic governments that never send them stupendous bills for hospital stays, but instead pay for everyone’s good health by way of their own taxes. There a jiffy ambulance run priced at a grand would meet gasps of disbelief followed by sighs of relief that they don’t live in such a sick, money-grubbing madhouse.