Saturday, January 20, 2018

Proposed ambulance district taxes even non-users

“What’s your life worth?” That was the headline to a recent piece outlining support for the mill levy to offer ALS (Advanced Life Support) service to a limited number of residents in Stillwater County. By excluding Absarokee and points south, the district that the service would cover appears carefully chosen to secure enough votes to get the levy passed, while putting the burden of the expense on property owners who are less likely to use it.
If this feels like a familiar ruse, it is the same tactic used by those who pushed Obamacare through congress just a few short years ago: provide mandatory medical insurance to high-need patients and pass the expense along to those who supposedly “can afford it,” and will use that insurance the least.
Why not just charge those who use the service? If one were to use last year’s numbers for calls and transfers, the cost on a per person basis would be just $750. This year’s numbers show a similar trend. And we are unable to infer whether these numbers are even made up primarily of the local residents who are being asked to pay for the service. But surely those who advocate for the value of ALS service when used for their benefit would be willing to pay $750 for it having saved a life? Or is a life not worth $750?
Of course, the reasonable cost of such a service can be made to seem like a mere pittance when it is made compulsory and spread over thousands of tax bills sent to property owners who may never use it. But as someone who has purchased health insurance over the individual exchange these last two years, I can attest to how quickly the costs of government-run insurance programs escalate, multiply, and spiral out of control. Since when has “more government” become the answer on health care? If there is a market for this service, let the market decide its value, not a board of appointed county officials.
Have we not learned from our mistakes? Socialized medicine has now come to the local level and has found ardent advocates. Vested special interests will say that the service is a necessity and the price is affordable, just as it supposedly was in the “Affordable” Care Act. And the result will be the same as it has always been. This is how it begins.

Andrew Forcier
Columbus

Editor’s Note: Absarokee and “points south” were not excluded from the proposed Stillwater Ambulance District, but rather chose to not participate.