What would have happened had the two agencies followed the popular injunction that they run their operations like a business? Zurich would have been kept on hold for hours listening to recorded messages about how important your business is to us. If it got through to a live person at all (unlikely, given the hour on the East Coast at the time), that person would have been a call-center robot rigidly trained not to deviate from prescribed order in answering or asking questions. Eventually he or she would have made it down the list to my problem, which would have been solved, but in hours rather than minutes.
Years ago, when run-government-like-a-business was the byword of the day, a wise commentator pointed out that a business has the right and even the duty to shed unprofitable divisions, but government can't just halt services to customers who don't bring in the desired cash — i.e., unprofitable citizens — or at least could not until recently.
Think about this the next time someone says private enterprise is better than government at everything. If in doubt, presume that the speaker is running for office, angling for kickbacks, reciting a mantra, or all three.
Where is this freedom of choice I stand to lose if the federal government assumes responsibility for health insurance?
© Peter Rozovsky 2012