Sometimes doing the right thing, even when doing it can be expensive, saves money in the not-that-long run as well as saving lives.
One example: Giving homeless people places to live costs less than leaving them on the streets. Because the chances are that left homeless they will spend a lot of time in more expensive temporary housing in hospitals or jails.
In addition to that preventive dollar value, a stabilizing domestic base enables better management of health, mental health, or addiction issues, and helps move people towards employment and better lives. And it steers them away from costly encounters with doctors and police.
One objection to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is that it steered large numbers of people to costly encounters with doctors, and this ran up quite a bill, much higher than the estimated costs offered by the President when the project became law.
The “mis-underestimation” could have been the product of honest naivete, or of dishonest political expediency. In retrospect its seems pretty obvious that bringing insurance coverage to people who had been without it, and largely without medical care, for years would reveal a big backlog of problems needing fixing. Now we know.
But now the good news, 3 years later, many of the millions of people added to the insurance rolls are in far better health than they were before.
Which saves all of us taxpayers money, because sick people are far more expensive than healthy ones.
Another way of looking at this, the 3 year Obamacare experience suggests that the costs of medical care reform are front-loaded, highest in the first years when new enrollees get old medical problems taken care of.
Benefits, on the other hand, are long-term and compound their value as a healthier population allows budgeteers to shift from treatment to more economical prevention of medical problems.
So universal healthcare like free housing for the homeless is less an expenditure than an investment which will be amortized over time.
Which is why abandoning the far-from-perfect investment in Obamacare after 3 years is not just cruel, depriving millions of Americans of health insurance and care, it is stupid, giving up on an effort after it has largely cleared its first hurdle, with an easier downward slope ahead. Cruel and Stupid, the very words on the ribbon under the Presidential portrait of Donald Trump.
Colin Baillio handles communications and outreach for Health Action NM in central New Mexico. He manages the Health Action NM blog and website, coordinates outreach and enrollment events, tracks New Mexico’s progress on health reform initiatives, and helps to build statewide networks of advocates to ensure greater access to health care for all New Mexicans. In 2013 he worked as an intern and temporary Legislative Correspondent in the Office of US Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) in Washington DC. There, he focused on issues related to the Affordable Care Act, reproductive rights, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and education. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of New Mexico, and summa cum laude from the Department of Political Science with a concentration in health policy. His goal is to help shape a health system that serves all New Mexicans with integrity.