Thursday, June 28, 2012

Buses and Health Care

Two topics of discussion today:

First, I wish more people where I work rode the bus.

Yes, you have to get up earlier if you take the bus. Yes, it takes longer to get home if you take the bus.

But the bus is cheaper. By leaps and bounds cheaper. Or was, until people stopped riding the bus for whatever reason. And prices are going up. But still, they'll be cheaper than driving out to work unless we hit the time when gasoline once again drops to 69.9 cents a gallon.

Second, the individual healthcare mandate has been upheld as constitutional. (although, in their commitment to solid journalism, briefly had the courts nullifying that portion of the law.)

(And, for the curious, when I decided to check in at Newsbusters to see the state of general conservative wharrrgarbl over the Supreme Court's ruling on healthcare, I got this. An amusing sign.)

It is meant, of course, to get everyone on the bus. To make health insurance more affordable because more people -- and more money -- are in the pot. We'll see if that happens. So far, the prices I'm paying for health insurance have gone in one direction only, and it ain't down.

But no one forces me to ride the bus. It is a decision I make based on the fact that the truck I drive would suck down two tanks of gasoline a week to get me to and from work, far more expensive than what I pay to ride the bus. There are also safety considerations. I like the fact that I don't have to drive. I can sleep. I don't sweat road conditions or fatigue. That's the bus driver's job. And our bus drivers are good at what they do.

But no one forces everyone to ride the bus. I'm not sure that forcing everyone to ride the bus is a good idea. Those who drive make their own decisions, maybe based on economics, maybe on other factors, such as sleeping in a bit later and getting home sooner. The cost of gasoline, obviously in their eyes, is less of a factor than whatever factor it is that persuades them to drive to work. Forcing them to ride the bus would make me happier because -- perhaps -- bus pass prices would go down, but they, in turn, would give up other tangible benefits they see in driving themselves to work or carpooling, rather than riding the bus.

If all things were equal -- if everyone were like me -- the buses would be so crowded they'd be less expensive and probably less comfortable and more likely to inspire Weird Al Yankovic parody songs.

But not everyone sees things like I do, which is too bad for me and my situation. But I don't see things like them, which maybe causes them some hardship along the way. Recently our company polled employees to see if they'd rather have a $50 a week carpooling incentive rather than bus access -- which, in addition to what we pay as employees for the bus passes, costs the company $450,000 a month. The poll I heard -- unofficially -- came out about even among people who adamantly want to continue having bus privileges, those interested in the $50 carpooling incentive and those who didn't give a fig either way.

Do I think health insurance prices will go down as more people are "forced" to buy health insurance? Not a chance. More people buying houses at the peak of the housing bubble -- which led to more houses being built and more people working in construction -- forced prices through the roof, not down. Those who look at increased demand -- whether through popular desire or governmental fiat -- to make prices go down are living in a fool's paradise. Only when the profit equation is taken out of healthcare might we see prices decrease. But that would be only a temporary dip, as costs outside of profits will still continue to rise. But that's socialism, which we will not see in this country any time soon.

PSST: CNN, you might want to remember that getting things right is far more important than getting things first.

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