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Opening Arguments

Not on the list

MSNBC is running a poll at the bottom of this story, asking whether respondents think the fire department was right or wrong:

Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 fee.

Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat. 

"They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn't do it," Cranick told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

The fire started when the Cranicks' grandson was burning trash near the family home. As it grew out of control, the Cranicks called 911, but the fire department from the nearby city of South Fulton would not respond.

"We wasn't on their list," he said the operators told him.

More than 180,000 people have voted so far, and the results are really lopsided -- 75 percent think the firefighters should have saved the home, and only 21 percent think he shouldn't have gotten the coverage because he didn't pay the fee. You can argue either that, a) this shows just how deep the entitlement mentality runs in this country (I knew the rules, but I deserve to be covered despite deliberately breaking them, and, by God, I'll sue if I'm not) or, b) that the firefigthers are professionals who should have put their mission above all (such as ER professionals whose job it is to save lives without worrying about who has insurance).

Speaking of which, this is fascinating:

Cranick says he told the operator he would pay whatever is necessary to have the fire put out.

His offer wasn't accepted, he said.

The fire fee policy dates back 20 or so years.

"Anybody that's not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it's a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don't," said South Fulton Mayor David Crocker.

[. . .]

South Fulton's mayor said that the fire department can't let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.

People can't be allowed to pay on the spot because then they'd only pay after they use it. Sound familiar, Obamacare fans?

As governments look to privatize more and more services, this kind of thing is likely to happen a lot. Government takes our "fees" in taxes, and it's always there, so we never think about the services it offers. Our house catches fire, the fire department comes. We call the police, and they respond. The potholes and the streetlights just get taken care of. But when we have to remember to pay in order to get services, we are required to make a stronger connection between choices and consequences.

I'd say the firefighers should have saved his house, by the way. Then sent him a whopping big bill for the whole cost, not just the modest upfront fee that he blew off.


Bob G.
Wed, 10/06/2010 - 10:14am

Very well said, and I can't agree more.

Of course, when government taxes (and ergo, the "fees") all but dry up becasue we're "entitling" more and more people at the price of our economic infrastructure (less revenue/less service?), this WILL occur...and with increasing regularity.

Not the best way to move FORWARD.
(just the only way...for now)

Good call.

Kevin Knuth
Wed, 10/06/2010 - 10:57am

Leo- you are way off base on this part-

"People can

tim zank
Wed, 10/06/2010 - 11:39am

Kevin, the analogy is perfectly clear, young people (or anyone for that matter) won't pay into the insurance pool because the fine will be cheaper than the premium, and when they finally do NEED care, then they'll join the pool, when they are already sick...

Why would they pay for it now when they can wait until later?

Kevin Knuth
Wed, 10/06/2010 - 3:16pm

Tim, I think you misunderstand how the system works- you really should read up on it:


Wed, 10/06/2010 - 8:02pm

Tim, you don't have a clue. As usual.

Especially with the "fine" being cheaper than the "premium."

"People can

Leo Morris
Thu, 10/07/2010 - 9:00am

From Kunth's link (you have to search for it, but it's in the timeline): "Under the new law, most individuals who can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans."

From Forbes.com: "There's a $750 penalty if you can afford coverage and don't buy it. But, in fact, young people might opt to pay the fine and stay uninsured, while the new entrants into the market are more likely to be older, sicker and thus costlier."

What is it Tim and I don't understand, and why, exactly, is it a "fairly stupid" analogy? Just think of a burned-to-the-ground house as a pre-existing condition.

tim zank
Thu, 10/07/2010 - 12:03pm

As Leo points out (again) it's a perfectly appropriate analogy. As for my "cluelessness", suffice to say I possess the necessary skills to add 2+2 and arrive at an answer of 4, unlike the all new Obama math you seem to be convinced of.

Hmmmm, let's see, we'll add 30 million recipients to the benefit pool at no charge to them and the price for all the current policy holders/premium payers will then go down.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. I hope you don't have access to a checkbook.

William Larsen
Thu, 10/07/2010 - 1:01pm

There is no law that requires you buy health insurance. There is a fine that is levied if you do not. The law also requires that anyone admitted to the hospital who does not have health insurance will automatically be enrolled. This saves the provider from having to pass unpaid bills onto others.

The automatic enrollment with a health care insurance provider will then send a bill to the patient. I suppose the person can refuse to pay the insurance premium, but I have been unable to find an legal statute that authorizes the another entity from making a purchase for you (insurance) and then send you the bill.

In many ways this is exactly what happened to me on 3-30-2009. I am covered by the VA health care system. I am required to inform anyone who comes to provide medical aid that I am a Veteran, and to transport me to the nearest VA hospital. TRAA was called by an entity. They arrived and I requested transport to the VA center on Lake Avenue. According the TRAA's protocal, they are not allowed to transport patients to the VA, only Lutheran, Parkveiw, St. Joe and Dupont. I told them to leave me. TRAA did not abide by my wishes and transported me to Parkveiw. They had my VA Disability ID card "Service Connected" yet no one in the ER ever attempted to call the VA to obtain any information on my health. I never authorized any medical transport or authorized any medical procedures and none of my family members did either.

Parkview took it upon themselves to perform medical procedures that have now made it impossible for me to be treated for my Service connected injuries.

The problem started with TRAA and ended with Parkveiw's contracted ER provider "Professional Emergency Physicians." The VA is a nightmare to work with. I have waited years to get seen by a specialist which turned out to be about two years too late. I spent years waiting to get my hearing checked which finally showed I had lost some hearing, most likely due to the loud explosion less then 2 feet below me. My doctor requested physical therapy in 2009, and I now have a scheduled appointment for October 12, 2010 where they will evaluate me. The average wait after you call the VA to see your doctor is about six weeks. You can go to the ER, but if it is not life threatening, then all they will do is treat the symptoms; they cannot schedule appointments, you have to get in line behind all the other veterans.

The VA actually has few service connected patients. The majority are retired veterans with low income who are allowed on a first come first serve basis for a small fee. This has seriously stretched the VA's ability to fulfill its primary mission "Service Connected Vets with injuries sustained in the line of duty." My doctor is only available for office visits every other two weeks. The doctors rotate from the office to the in patient ward. This reduced the number of slots to see the doctor as well as creates black out dates where you are simply out of luck if they are on the impatient ward.

The US Healthcare is the best in the world, the problem is we have Parkview building new hospitals that are like spas. The VA puts 4 patients to a room; saves travel distance, reduces infrastructure space and labor, thus cost. The private hospitals are going in the wrong direction to reduce cost.

As more people are covered, the demand will increase as well as cost. The problem is this will reduce all to the lowest common denominator, the VA health care system.

People are not stupid. They will pay the small $750 fine yearly for not having insurance. The likely hood they will need it is very small. In the event they do find themselves needing it, well they will be enrolled on the spot at the time they need it. Next year just drop it again. It is Just In Time Insurance. You only pay when you actually need it.

Kevin Knuth
Fri, 10/08/2010 - 6:50am

Here is a much better comparison of health care and fire protection-

"When liberals explain why health care needs an individual mandate, the traditional metaphor is firefighting: Everyone needs to buy insurance for the same reason that everyone needs to buy fire protection. But if you leave the market unregulated, some people won't buy -- or won't be able to afford -- fire protection. And we're not comfortable letting their houses burn down. Similarly, if you leave health coverage to the market, some people won't buy it, and others won't be able to afford it, and then, when they get sick and need it, insurers won't sell it to them. But we're not comfortable letting them die in the streets. Hence, the health-care law."


William Larsen
Fri, 10/08/2010 - 7:02pm

In order to drive a vehicle in Indiana, you need to have liability coverage. It does not require you have collision coverage. This allows you the owner of your car to wreck your car and if you do not have collision, you pay the priced. If you damage someone else's property with your vehicle, then liability is there to protect the interest of the person's property you damage.

When you create a captured market, the cost of healthcare will increase. Medicare created the first captured market. If a senior needs health care, the "taxpayer picks up the tab. There is no incentive on the part of the consumer to curb use. This meant there was a new sugar daddy in the economy that led to new medical companies to created implants, test equipment, procedures, drugs and more.

The second influence was the wide spread use of employer sponsored insurance. This started out low cost, but soon companies began to market to this group with little control over spending.

Now we have the government saying everyone should be covered.

Insurance works when the risk of a loss is low and the cost of any loss is high. Many people pay a low premium for the cost to insure against an average event. The cost become expensive when the insurance covers everything.