Every so often I find signs that charity care is not yet dead. For example, the Injured Riders Foundation gives financial and other support to people (usually young adults without insurance) who are injured while snowboarding, skateboarding or otherwise engaged in “action sports.”

Its mission statements reads in part:

All PEOPLE hurt while participating in action sports are eligible for funding. The recipient is required to submit an eligibility form. The eligibility form includes the recipients name, address, phone number, heath insurance inquiry, financial inquiry and story submission instructions. The submission instructions require the recipient to include a detail description of the named accident that has left them injured, the medical procedures taken to repair the body, the psychological journey, the medical recovery process and how this accident has impacted and/or changed their life. Each recipient’s form is read and reviewed by a panel that decides the financial support by the severity of the injury and the lack of financial support to help with the expenses incurred. The Foundation will only apply funds to the service provider on behalf of the injured. Thus, funds will not be directly given to the athlete but to the bill collector. All funds available for the injured are limited by the amount of donations and contributions the foundations receives.”

There are several good qualities about this group. There’s some form of review committee. It requires some form of documentation. And it gives money to service providers directly, to make sure that the funds are actually used for the intended purpose.

On another note, I live in a city of over 60,000 people. It has a volunteer fire department. The firefighters are not strictly volunteer — they get $10 per training session and $10 for each time they get called to the scene of a fire or medical emergency, and they do get a modest pension after 20 years. But compared with what a union firefighter in a big city would get, they’re volunteers. And the city residents are fine with that, which is ironic, given that advocates of a government health plan sometimes cite government-run fire departments as an example of why we need government to “do something” for our health and safety.

One of the men on the force has a potentially deadly disease that requires expensive treatment. Two of the local small newspapers have written up his story. If you visit a local coffee shop or gym, you may see a flier advertising a fundraising event designed to offset his expenses. (I don’t know if he is uninsured or simply has an overwhelming number of bills.)

Some people may look at his situation and see an injustice in having to beg for a “human right.” Needless to say, I disagree. Rights are claims that you have so that government won’t do certain things TO you, not FOR you. After all, before government does something for you, it must do something to someone else — namely, take his money.

Charitable care minimizes the inefficiencies of bureaucracy that are inherent in government programs. It also offers donors the opportunity to develop and act on kindness and compassion rather than simply surrender another chunk of money to politicians.

“Charity isn’t enough,” you’ll hear. And that’s true. But that fact is one reason why we need public policies that make portable health insurance cheaper and health care itself more open to the benefits of open and honest competition.

Cross-posted from State House Call.

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