Except perhaps for the merits of a bailout last year, no other topic in recent memory has led to such a polarized view from Fools as the health-care debate. The sheer volume of comments in articles -- here, here, and here -- tell the story.
Some of you had suggestions of your own about how to solve the high price of health care, but mostly the debate comes down to how much Fools want the government involved with health care, and whether it's OK for companies to make a buck off sick people. Today, I'd like to take a look at the latter.
Hang with me, Fools -- this could get ugly.
You said it
Reader CommonPaine doesn't have a problem with doctors -- just health insurers, whom the reader feels don't contribute anything to the party:
While I have no problem with care providers earning a living by giving care, I see no reason why a company that gets rich by denying payment for care has any right to exist. You can idolize these vultures if you wish. They have proven themselves to be ethically corrupt and morally bankrupt.
It is patently immoral to make a profit off of the misfortune and illness of people. Making a living and paying expenses is fine. But as soon as the entity providing the care is beholden to shareholders, care is cut at the expense of the patient to put more money in the pockets of investors.
On the other side of the table, GaryCCB, wonders what all the hubbub is about?
Can anyone show me a health insurer that carries a profit percentage of more than 6%? From what I've observed, none are making reasonable profits. I'm no champion of the health insurance business but I'm finding all the large insurers are carrying after-tax bottom lines of 4, 5 or 6%. When I started businesses I wouldn't have even considered an after-tax profit of less than 15%.
Finally, minowe just doesn't get it, wondering, "I'm amazed to read so many comments in an INVESTMENT newsletter 'Comments' section that seem to believe that PROFIT is evil."
Here's my take
The problem with complaining about profits is that profits are what allow all of us to live longer. Just like you shouldn't expect Apple
Sen. John Kerry seems to get it. He's concerned that a tax on medical device companies such as Boston Scientific
Of course, we could go with reader ET69, who thinks we should just have everything run by the government: "You can't have a rational healthcare system based on the PROFIT motive. The insurance and drug companies and hospitals and doctors must all be nationalised...period." But will innovation happen at the same level if it's done only by the government?
I really don't have a problem with people avoiding companies for ethical reasons. Fellow Fool Alyce Lomax says she wouldn't invest in Monsanto
Just realize that you could be passing up a gold mine. Limiting the profits of health-care companies may help your pocketbook, but hurt your life expectancy.
What do you think of the plans under consideration now? Where do we strike the balance between profit and patients? Leave a comment below, and share your thoughts.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Pfizer is an Inside Value selection. The Fool owns shares of Medtronic and has sold puts on the company. The Fool's disclosure policy eats an apple a day and hopes for the best.