Gaming the Whack-a-Mole Consequences of Central Planning


When their story was first published in the Providence Journal, I hesitated to highlight the health insurance ordeal of Stacey Jackson and Alex Nunes (her husband) as childbirth proved more expensive than they’d anticipated.  It’s certainly within the scope of our interest, on this site, and shows how meddling government regulations have tangled our health care system, and how dangerous it has proven to condition health care consumers not to worry about the prices of the services they authorize.

On the other hand, that this anecdote was a front-page matter seemed odd.  The young couple — he a freelance college professor (in a sense) and she a non-profit employee — made the assumption that buying a relatively inexpensive, subsidized health plan via the government would cover everything.  When it didn’t, the couple turned to big-brother government in the person of the health insurance commissioner and then, when that didn’t work, managed to get some relief by bringing in the news media to frighten the providers.

Apparently, that outcome wasn’t sufficient for Nunes, who has taken to the Providence Journal’s opinion pages to gripe that his story didn’t make him of interest to Rhode Island politicians. He even gives his email address in the op-ed.

I’m not in the habit of defending Rhode Island’s ruling class, but this is presumptuous.  Nothing in his ordeal makes Nunes an expert on this issue.  Perhaps his wife and children would be useful to a politician who wanted a poster-family for the cameras for some policy or other (although their being married, white, and responsible is problematic), but — newsflash — actual policy changes to fix the system would not be specifically tailored to his circumstances, so government officials would have much broader resources at their disposal.

We could hope, probably incorrectly, that Rhode Island’s politicians secretly know that these inevitable whack-a-mole consequences of central planning are part of the problem, making them disinclined to stoke every little spark into a flame.  More likely, though, they see that Nunes and Jackson gamed the system exactly as it’s supposed to be gamed.   How were they to know that he actually believes that more of the government that messed up the health care system and caused his problem would be the solution?

  • stuckinRI

    It’s a brave (confusing, complicated, scary, EXPENSIVE) new world out there with healthcare insurance coverage folks.

    You need to:

    KNOW your plan – all the gory details, read ALL of the fine print.

    Do the leg work – if you know you will have a procedure done (like having a baby) call the providers and the insurance company and ask tons of questions. find out what’s covered and what’s not.

    Know what your max out-of-pocket costs are – this number is probably different (HIGHER) than your deductible.

    When you have a plan provided by your employer they do all this leg work and can answer many of these questions, but if you have an individual plan you are on your own.

    Assume NOTHING – that was Mr. Nunes first mistake (he’d read on the federal website that the Affordable Care Act,… requires all approved plans to cover 100 percent of maternity and newborn care. He assumed that meant his plan also had to cover the entire cost of their baby’s birth).
    You need to be well informed BEFORE you have a procedure performed.