Tell ya what let's do: Let's come up with another way to insure Americans

Freedom of choice and expression is way more important than viability, when building any insurance system — right?

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published June 24, 2017 8:00AM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell; Donald Trump; Paul Ryan   (AP/Alex Brandon/Reuters/Rick Wilking/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Photo montage by Salon)
Mitch McConnell; Donald Trump; Paul Ryan (AP/Alex Brandon/Reuters/Rick Wilking/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Photo montage by Salon)

Tell ya what let’s do. Let’s sit down behind closed doors and get rid of the system they rammed down our throats and come up with a new way to insure Americans.

There are about 265 million registered cars in the United States, and we’re sick and tired of the old government-regulated system, so let’s come up with a new kind of automobile insurance. It’s a pain in the ass, auto insurance. Everybody’s got to have it because an automobile is basically a deadly weapon. Cars these days can weigh two, three tons . . . the larger SUVs like Chevy Suburbans and Lincoln Navigators weigh 5,800 to 6,000 pounds. They can achieve speeds upwards of 100 mph — a Porsche Turbo S can go 205 mph — so that’s lot of heavy steel traveling at very high speeds, and if all that steel going all those miles per hour hits something, like say another car, or a tree, or a somebody’s living room, it’s going to cause one hell of a lot of damage. Thus the deadly weapon reference … leaving aside, for the time being, that we require exactly zero insurance on actual deadly weapons like Glock 9mm pistols or AR15 assault rifles, a discussion perhaps for another time.

But cars are dangerous things, and for almost a century we’ve understood that we should carry insurance on them in case we have accidents. But we don’t like it, and we’ve been promising everyone we were going to replace it, so let’s come up with something and call it the American Automobile Insurance Act. First thing let’s do, let’s throw out that ridiculous requirement that everyone has to buy insurance on their cars. You probably have it in your state — carrying liability insurance on your car is compulsory in every state save Virginia, which requires that you pay a $500 uninsured vehicle fee if you’re not insured, and Mississippi and New Hampshire, which require you to put up a bond or cash in lieu of insurance.

Sound familiar? Paying a damn fee if you don’t take the damn mandatory insurance? Intrusive damn government regulation is what it is. Let’s throw it out! We don’t need it. We’ll let you buy insurance on your car if you want to, and if you don’t, the hell with it. You can drive around uninsured, and if you hit someone and you injure them, the hell with them. They get stuck with their own bills, or they can sue you and you can go bankrupt and stick them with the bill. And if you hit something, like a public utility pole or fence or wall, instead of your insurance paying for the damage, the people paying their utility bills can pay for your damage, or the taxpayers can pay for the damage you did to public property. Who the hell needs this stuff about being responsible for your own actions , anyway? What do you want?

Responsibility, or freedom? Well, we want freedom, damnit!

And we won’t give a damn what our new insurance system does to premiums. Right now, with virtually every one of the 265 million cars required to be insured, the cost of insurance is spread around to all 265 million of us. That means, if you’re driving around for 20 or 30 years or so, and you don’t have any accidents causing personal injury or physical damage to property, you have been paying your premiums to cover all that stuff done by others. What are you, a sucker? What do we want? Do we want shared responsibility through shared costs by everyone paying a premium every month to cover themselves and everybody else? Or do we want freedom? Hell, we want freedom!

So we’ll go ahead and let you opt out of insuring your car, and thus opt out of paying premiums, and spread that cost all over those suckers who are so stupid they stay in the system and help each other pay for everyone’s mistakes and accidents. So what if maybe half the people stop carrying insurance? Say you’re paying $150 a month for your car insurance today, maybe you’ll be paying $300 or $400 a month tomorrow, once everyone who chooses not to be a sucker stops carrying insurance. What would you rather have? Reasonable burden sharing and equitable auto insurance premiums for everyone, or freedom? Hell, we want freedom!

And to hell with everyone else stuck with paying maybe two, three, or four times what they were paying for auto insurance before! Freedom, damnit!

Now let’s talk about those onerous regulations that tell you what kind of insurance you’ve got to carry. Right now, everyone has to carry insurance covering injury or death to one person, injury or death to more than one person, and property damage. For example, in the state of North Carolina, you’re required to carry insurance providing $30,000 coverage for injury/death to one person, a $60,000 limit on more than one person, and $25,000 to cover property damage. What a bunch of crap burdensome regulations like that are! In a free market, you should be able to buy the kind of insurance you want! If you want to just cover property damage, well then, we’ll let you buy insurance that just covers property damage. And if you injure two people, and it costs something like $50,000 to fix them up, to hell with it! Let them pay!

So we’re going all free market on this auto insurance plan. You buy the kind of liability insurance you want, to cover one, two, three or more people … or no people at all! And you buy as much as you want. You want to cover them for a grand each? Great. We’ll let you do that. You want coverage for fender benders only, say $500 for property damage? Okay with us. What the hell do you want ? These damn regulations that drive up your insurance premiums by making you carry $30,000, or $60,000 or $25,000 in coverage? Or do you want freedom? We’re here to give you freedom from those intrusive government regulations! Freedom, damnit!

And how about those premiums? Don’t you think it’s just ridiculous to make everyone pay pretty much the same? How about we do this. How about we come up with a system that rewards you for being young and having really good hand-eye coordination and reaction time, because you’d be much more likely to avoid accidents. We’ll set one low rate of insurance for you young people, and hopefully we’ll attract more of you into the system because the premiums are low. But those old people? With their damn eyeglasses and contacts they lose all the time? You know the ones I’m talking about. Some of those graying geezers may have even been injured on the job by the time they’ve been working 30 years and walk around with a cane! These damn people between, say, 50 and 65 years old … let’s come up with a system where they can be charged five times what the young people get charged! That sounds good!

So if you’re 25 to 30, and you’re healthy and alert, we might charge you $50 a month for your car insurance. And if you’re 50, and you’ve been around the block a few times and you’re just goddamned old, we’ll charge you $250 a month for your insurance! What about if you’ve got a perfect driving record at 50, you ask? Tough luck. Just being 50 is enough. You pony up five times what we’re charging the 25-year-old down the street, or we won’t insure you. What the hell, man? In a free market, we should be able to set premiums any way we want to! You think you’re going to regulate us, and make us charge everyone the same? Not a chance. A free market system means freedom! Freedom to screw old people, freedom to reward young people, freedom to do whatever the hell we want! Freedom, damnit!

So what have we got, now that we have completely restructured the entire automobile insurance business and established a truly free-market system? Well, what we’ve got isn’t insurance at all. It’s a free-for-all you can get into if you want, and stay out of at will. You can buy really, really good insurance that covers you for almost anything, or you can buy a policy that covers you and you alone and only for a little bit of money and doesn’t cover anyone else. And we can charge you any damn amount we want. There’s no overall insurance “pool” anymore, no way of actuarially establishing rates covering a predictable number of people driving a predictable number of cars, predicting accident probabilities and establishing reasonable rates. Nope, now we cover whoever decides to sign on whenever they want and they can get out whenever they want, so we have no idea who we’re covering day to day and thus no way to work out the probability of accident rates and set equitable premiums. In other words, we’ve got a fucking mess. But by god, we’ve got freedom.

Welcome to the automobile version of the Republican health care insurance system. Good luck.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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