Photo: Basem Wasef
The American Motorcyclist Association has issued an “Action Alert” opposing reform of our health care system. That opposition appears to stem from the unsubstantiated belief that reform could somehow lead to an “unelected commission or board” denying motorcyclists access to medical care. Not only is this claim spurious, ill-informed and worryingly reminiscent of the moronic “death panels” rumor started by Sarah Palin, but it also acts in direct opposition to the greater good of American motorcyclists.
Update: AMA spokesperson Peter terHorst has responded in comments.
What’s being proposed by President Obama and various members of
Congress isn’t a European-style government-run healthcare system, but
rather reform of our health insurance industry. We’re not getting
government-run hospitals and federal employees as doctors, what’s
proposed are measures to increase competition among health insurance
providers and some checks to prevent the more flagrant abuses of those
insurance companies, things like denying coverage to people with
pre-existing medical conditions. Overall, this has the potential to
make healthcare more affordable and give more people access to it.
Competition among insurance providers across state lines is more likely
to bring costs down and coverage up than it is to reduce available
coverage. As a consumer, motorcyclist or not, that would mean more
options, not less. If an insurance company is reluctant to cover
injuries sustained on a motorcycle, you’ll have a better chance of
finding another company that does. In a free market, demand is met with
supply; if motorcyclists want coverage, they’ll have options to
purchase it. That’s sadly not the case with the current system, which
doesn’t allow competition between states, locks people into whatever
insurance company their employer decides to use and doesn’t offer any
realistic single-payer options at all.
A good friend of mine currently pays $1,200 a month for health
insurance in New York; as far as we can tell, he won’t be covered if he
ends up in a hospital after a motorcycle accident. There is no other
plan or provider within his price range that would cover bike-related
To our minds, the single greatest threat to motorcycling as a pastime,
community, activity, means of transportation or an industry is the
ever-increasing risk averseness of American society. As Americans
become more averse to risk, they’re less likely to become or to stay
In 1998, the NHTSA estimated that motorcyclists were three times as
likely as passenger car occupants to be injured in a crash. According
to The Washington Post, the cost of health insurance increased 36
percent between 2000 and 2004, four times the rate of inflation, while
at the same time the level of care provided decreased. The National
Coalition on Healthcare estimates that there are 46 million Americans,
about 18 percent under the age of 65, that don’t have healthcare.
By increasing the risk of significant financial hardship should a
person be injured on a motorcycle, our broken healthcare system is
combining with our society’s increasing risk averseness to reduce the
number of people that are willing to ride motorcycles. It’s sort of the
perfect anti-motorcycle storm and it’s getting worse; the NCHC
estimates that national health spending will double to $4.4 trillion a
year by 2018. Will there be anyone left willing to accept the risk of being bankrupted by medical bills and take up riding in a
The AMA’s mission statement is, “to protect and promote the interests
of motorcyclists while serving the needs of its members.” We strongly
urge it to reconsider its position on healthcare reform to better align
itself with those interests.
Oh, and that’s me in the picture above, getting ready for a $1,600 ambulance ride.