I wrote this back in ohdeargod 2008 to explain why I didn't understand the American health care debate. Sadly, in 2017, with the Republicans repealing the hella flawed ACA and leaving nothing but ruins in its place, I still don't understand the American health care debate. Hence, a repost.The People Who Live on the Moon
I don’t know if you guys know this, but the Moon has been colonized for ages by a race of aliens that are very much like you and me. They live in underground caverns that look a bit like this:
Their society is one of the most prosperous anywhere in the universe. They have tons of money, which they use to buy awesome technological gadgets that let them be in instantaneous contact with friends on the other side of the Moon. They produce more food in their underground greenhouses than they know what to do with. Their reality TV is of the highest quality of any reality TV in this region of space.
The only problem is this: The Moon has no air. They’ve developed a way to synthesize a breathable atmosphere, which they pump through all of the buildings in the underground caverns. But this technology was developed by a capricious and greedy company. The air company keeps their quality filtered air circulating through the Moon colony. The Moon people hardly ever think about where their air comes from. But every so often, completely randomly, the air company cuts off the air of a particular house until the owner of the house pays for them to restart it. The amount of money that the unfortunate owner of the house must pay is completely dependent on the whim of the air company. Moon people get understandably nervous about the prospect of their air getting cut off. After all, there’s no source of free air on the Moon, and suffocation is a horrible way to die.
Accordingly, an industry has sprung up around keeping the air flowing to people’s houses. Several companies provide air insurance—at a cost, of course. If you have air insurance and the air company cuts off your air, the insurance company will get it back up and running before you suffocate. Usually. So most of the Moon people have air insurance. Many Moon companies recognize the importance of air, so they provide air insurance to their workers. Other Moon people buy it privately.
There are just a few snags:
1. Air insurance is really expensive. Some Moon people can’t afford it.
2. If you’ve ever had your air cut off in the past, no company will sell you air insurance.
3. If you get sick and can’t work, your company will stop paying for your air insurance, and you won’t have any money to buy your own private air insurance.
It’s quite possible, of course, for an alien to live her entire life out on the Moon and never get the air in her house cut off. So many Moon people who don’t have a lot of money decide to take a risk and not buy air insurance. They figure if their air does suddenly get cut off, they can run to a neighbour’s house and hope to be taken in, or that maybe they can do a deal with the air company to get the air back up and running, as long as they pay a tribute to the air company for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, their air won’t get cut off until they’re old and have enough savings to pay the reconnection fee.
For a lot of Moon people, air insurance isn’t even an option. They can’t get jobs at the sorts of companies that provide good air coverage, or they’re too young, or too old, or too sick, or they’ve had too many run-ins with the air company before to qualify. A significant number of Moon people die of suffocation every year because they can’t afford to pay when their air supply gets cut off.
This used to not be reported at all, but increasingly, the Moon people are noticing that Martians, who also suffer from an air shortage, have a different air system entirely. The Martians pay more in taxes than the Moon people do, but they don’t need to pay for air insurance. It actually comes out cheaper, because there are no big air insurance companies that require an overhead; just one, centralized government department that makes sure that air gets provided to everyone. The Moon press reports that the quality of air on Mars isn’t as good as the air on the Moon, but the Martians aren’t complaining, really. Air, they argue, is a Martian right.
Many Moon people are talking about reforms to the air insurance industry. As it happens, there is currently an election happening for Moon President. One candidate thinks that the air insurance system is pretty good as is—if anything, he seems to want to get rid of any limits that currently exist, letting the insurance companies charge whatever they want for their services. The other candidate wants to pass a law requiring everyone to buy air insurance, including the people who are now too poor to buy air insurance.
A few Moon people have suggested moving to the Martian system, but whenever they pipe up, they’re called socialists, which is the biggest insult you can possibly think of in the Moon people’s language.
The Martians, for their part, don’t understand at all why the Moon people don’t stage a revolution over this. To them, the whole air insurance issue is, well, pure lunacy.