If Mackey lost his conscience and Whole Foods started selling shitty
food, that’s easily addressed by consumers – they might have to pitch
one trip’s worth of groceries, but they’d go somewhere else.
But if those consumers got screwed out of their health care by an
insurance company, they can’t go elsewhere. If you get cancer, and your
insurance company decides not to cover it because they ginned up some
pre-existing condition that you didn’t know you had or shouldn’t be
relevant (this is calledrescission,
and it’s a serious issue), you can’t just go to another insurance
company and say “hey, treat my cancer, and pick up my tab at the old
insurance company while you’re at it.” A shitty grocery store can’t
destroy your life – figuratively or literally – with one decision. A
shitty health insurer can.
Also, keep in mind that Mackey has, for his entire life, been
selling to well-informed, well-heeled customers. Not everyone has lots
of money or information. Some people are poor, some people are
desperate, some people are dumb, and some people are all of that and
more. Those people are easy marks (especially when it comes to
something as arcane as health insurance) or unappealing targets, in no
way able to keep up their end of the ideal free-market transaction, and
that’s where a lot of liberals diverge from libertarian views
– they think those people should be provided for and protected by the
government, either directly or through the legislation of private
business. Liberals think that should be the case because of moral
beliefs, or because they think a healthier populace would make America
more functional and productive.
Emphasis mine, because I was having this conversation with an acquaintance the other day about all the information you’re expected to find on your own when you’re going through some medical drama. The doctors and nurses I deal with on a near-daily basis are absolutely astonished whenever I don’t know something, like if a test result is what you’d call normal or what some number might indicate or even in what order certain procedures are done and how many times. They look at me like teachers who are pissed I haven’t studied for their tests.
And, yes, I have the time and wherewithal to seek out information (except the medical Internet isbonkers, which is another post, plus dammit sometimes I just want them to do their jobs and tell me what I need to know) but what if I didn’t? What if I didn’t have a job that was flexible in its hours so I could get to appointments which are whenever the doctor feels like it, what if I didn’t have the time to research things and call friends and get second opinions and really be in charge of this myself? Not everyone can, and we have designed a system that is basically made to weed out the old, very sick and easily frustrated, to shove them into underfunded emergency rooms because if they can’t deal with the constant hassle they just wait until they can’t wait anymore.