How determinism can help insurance companies deny medical claims

I think this article—which could have come from The Onion but actually came from another “joke news site,” The Beaverton—is hilarious. 
Here’s an excerpt; I hope compatibilists have a sense of humor!

Chicago, IL – American insurers have begun classifying all medical claims as pre-existing conditions and refusing to offer settlements because of the clockwork nature of the physical universe.

“Everything that has happened, is happening or ever will happen was set in motion 13.8 billion years ago,” says Annalise Bufford, the spokesperson for the Company Trade Organization. “We can’t be expected to pay out on health problems that began eons before the policy went into effect.”

A small cottage industry of philosophers has sprung up to help customers navigate the increasingly esoteric insurance claims process.

“Like everyone else, I used to make fun of majors,” recent patient Guy Tregowan says. “But now I’m grateful someone spent years of their life learning how to argue that my broken leg was not predestined. I guess everything really does happen for a reason.”

“Shit, I don’t mean that,” Tregowan quickly clarified. “What I meant to say was, thank goodness a stranger exercised their free will* and made the capricious decision to get a philosophy degree which had the utterly random and completely unpredictable result of forcing the insurance company to pay my .”

*JAC: Of course he means “the only free will worth wanting.”


  1. Posted July 21, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Brought to you by the Open Hand Assurance Company, “Gimme isn’t an ugly word. “

  2. Tom
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    If everthing is predetermined we don’t need Insurance companies because its predetermined that they won’t pay up.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    LOL. The Beaverton is Canada’s Onion.

  4. sensorrhea
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Funny, but it brings up an interesting point. The more we can predict what diseases a person is likely to get the weirder the enterprise of health insurance will become.

    You end up with either a totally cruel world where you are left in the cold if you have faulty genes and not enough money to deal with the results or we end up with universal coverage.

    • Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      That’s why it’s so fucking insane to run health care as an insurance racket.

      In civilized countries, health care is treated like police and fire, roads, sewer and water, the military, and all the rest — something essential to the public welfare in which private profit motives are the last factor you want driving decision-making processes.

      In America, on the other hand, we have literally the most corrupt industry in the history of our country now legally guaranteed an insane profit margin with an individual mandate that everybody must buy into the mess. Oh — and let’s not forget that faceless accountants make life-or-death medical decisions based solely on the profitability of the “customer.”

      And, before that — and what the Republicans want to return to — was the same insurance racket, but with those who can’t afford to buy into it left to die (but only, of course, after they’ve been bankrupted).

      …but we’re #1! We’re the greatest!


      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Well said! That’s just how I see the US healthcare system.

        Being poor is a pre-existing condition.

        There’s an attitude amongst many that people are poor because they deserve to be. The same people rarely think poor people in Africa, Asia, or Central America are poor because they are lazy, for example.

        • Posted July 21, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          …not to mention Drumpf’s and Sessions’s resumption of the War on Drugs. Addiction is a moral failure deserving of the harshest possible punishment for detrimental and retributive purposes, not as a mental health problem needing effective and compassionate treatment.

          And any suggestion that inmates be given education and job training, or that at-risk youth be given additional resources for education and health care, is treated as traitorous pinko commie socialist subversion, a terrorist plot to take away our freedom.



          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 21, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

            About five years ago I was shocked and pleased to hear our devout Catholic Finance Minister call prisons “a moral and fiscal failure”. He’s prime Minister now. The government is centre right and they have done a lot, though nowhere near enough, to work on that issue with more retraining, drug rehab, etc in prisons. The problem is the general public mostly think locking people up is the way to go.

            There was recently a recommendation that all drugs be decriminalized and the issue treated as a health one as in Portugal, but no political party likely to win the next election (September) is secure enough to campaign on it. Not enough people understand the issue. The drug trade here is firmly in the control of the gangs and they’re scared of the consequences.

            We need to be going like Norway instead of the USA. We’re getting closer to Norway but that is happening without the public’s knowledge. I wish I knew how to make people understand that helping inmates and treating them well is a good thing. Most seem to think that you should make prisons like the dungeons of old so people won’t to do back.

            I’m rabbiting on a bit. I’ll stop.

  5. busterggi
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Well we are all pawns in god’s immutable plan.

  6. Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Insurance companies already do this by denying claims on damages caused by “acts of God.” This just generalizes, and perhaps secularizes, their scam.

  7. Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    ‘I hope compatibilists have a sense of humor!’ – they don’t have a choice

  8. Randy schenck
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    It should be increasingly clearer all the time that affordability is the key to making any of these changes. Medical care in general is not affordable in this country so what do you do about it. So far we just ignore that fact and pretend lack of affordability is not the issue. Instead we attempt to get private insurance to provide affordable premiums to cover the unaffordable medical care. They cannot so then we attempt to subsidize the private insurance companies with tax payer money. This is nuts. We are attempting to maintain the old system that no longer works by subsidizing it instead of simply subsidizing the patient.

    • Posted July 22, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      Looking in from outside of the US I am always puzzled by comments like these. What is so special about the US compared to all other wealthy countries that “medical care in general is not affordable in this country” when it is affordable in all others?

      This is, of course, a general problem beyond health care. Many people assume that their governance structure, electoral system, tax system, school system, student fees, gun legislation, etc, are without alternative even as many other countries happily demonstrate that this is empirically false.

      I guess there is some advantage here to being a smaller country. Places like the Netherlands, Denmark or New Zealand may be more ready to look around and be inspired by how others do things than countries that are so large or populous that many of their citizens hardly ever travel outside.

  9. BJ
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Well, this does bring up one intriguing point. We always think of the good things that might happen if we all accept determinism. What about the bad?

    • reasonshark
      Posted July 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      First of all, bad things happen whether they were determined or whether they simply popped out of the blue. Adding choice to the mix changes nothing, unless your concept of choice violates so many scientific and rational principles that it’s dead on arrival anyway, that is. (And some people’s concepts of choice do do that.)

      More to the point, if one of the prior causes of said bad things is discovery of determinism and its implications… well, that’s a fact about reality. Suck it up and deal with it. What else are you going to do? Unless, of course, “manipulation, lies, and secrets kept from the hoi polloi” is the new “honest”.

      Besides, you’d have to wonder about the mental health of a society that collapses upon discovery of cause-and-effect.

      Perhaps even speculate that the attachment to “free will” as a sort of life raft speaks less about the nobility of “free will” and more about the fact that they’ve been convinced beforehand that they need it in the first place. It’s the same with religious indoctrination; if religion’s a crutch, it’s because it breaks your legs first.

      The Appeal to Consequences is in no sense a real argument.

      • BJ
        Posted July 21, 2017 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        That’s not what I meant. Jerry often talks about how, if determinism is true, it would necessitate certain reforms in the judicial system. Might there be some reforms or tweaks in philosophy made necessary by determinism that might not be so good?

  10. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Of course he means “the only free will worth wanting.”

    Why “of course”? “Capricious decision” pretty clearly suggests libertarian free will.

    My sense of humor is as good as anybody’s, but I think it’s stretch to claim this joke is about compatibilism.

    • Posted July 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree. It’s not about interpretations of free will. The joke is that invoking physical determinism doesn’t make sense in all contexts.

    • Craw
      Posted July 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      Well, I don’t agree your sense of humor is as good as anyone else’s, my brother has a stunningly good one, I doubt yours could match up, so not *anyone* else’s, but I agree with the rest.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 22, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      I thought it was primarily a joke about the ridiculousness of denying health care and the ridiculousness is explained through a reductio ad absurdum of a philosophical stance, which was a secondary joke about philosophy.

      • Craw
        Posted July 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        That is surely right, since the article talks about a similar attempt, leading to the first wives joke.

  11. Ken
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink


  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    So Laplace’s demon is an insurance actuary?

  13. Posted July 21, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    This satire makes a good point.

  14. loren russell
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    This is how insurance companies can charge $12 a year and make a profit.

  15. Posted July 21, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    That last part of the quote reads as if it is poking fun at compatibilism for supposedly being useless word play, but I cannot help but find the rest of it to be a very strong argument for compatibilism, whether that was intended or not. Because it clearly shows what many of us have been arguing: First, if determinism is true then it is true that everything is predetermined, but second, it is then so trivially true that it is not a helpful insight for, well, anything.

    Be it denying health insurance claims or arguing for changes to the justice system, in either case it seems as relevant to the existing controversies as analysing a scientific hypothesis or model under the logic of “this experiment tells us nothing because its outcome was always predetermined”.

    • Craw
      Posted July 21, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Plus one.

      Determinism is 1) unfalsifiable and 2) irrelevant. What matters is if beliefs, incentives, reasons are causal. And that is not the same thing at all.

  16. Kevin
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    This is a very good example why compatiblism works. Insurance companies can claim the universe is determined and that some will have pre-existing conditions that lead to higher payouts but others will not. Problem is they don’t know who is who. Clearly after some time they can gather evidence for statistics but they can never know for sure. The outcomes for people’s health are simply gambles. Indistinguishable from a universe that actually had free will.

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