My mom, who still handles her medical insurance forms by paper, was complaining that the sheer volume of paper involved has greatly expanded in recent years. I told her my theory, which is that it’s all the fault of the not-paper alternative: the internet.

My theory goes roughly like this: As it has become easier to move these processes on-line, the people who make regulations are progressively less constrained to do things in a way that conserves paper. After all, on the internet, information is infinitely expandable.

No matter how onerous the reporting requirements, you can design a web site for medical insurance in such a way that the first page looks clean and tidy. Then to see any extra fine print, users can just click on a tab.

So if somebody at a regulatory agency says “Hey, we really should also be requiring this extra info, or that statement of policy,” there isn’t much incentive for anybody else to push back and say no.

This isn’t much of a problem if you handle all your insurance on-line. But if you’re a paper person, you’ll see the size of those envelopes grow every year.

Not because of paper, but because of not-paper.

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