Why Mandatory Health Insurance is Constitutional

As a Federal Judge ruled that requiring people to purchase health care insurance is unconstitutional, we are now thrust into the debate that is central to the GOP's attempt to overturn the nation's Health Insurance and Care Reform law.

What might get lost in the shuffle is that this is not the first time this has been challenged in court, and in previous challenges, judges have ruled that the requirement is indeed constitutional.

Opponent's of Health Insurance Reform contend that if Congress can compel someone to buy health insurance, then they could compel someone to buy brocoli, because, hey, what's the difference between one good and/or service and another?

Thirty five of our nation's leading health care economists, including three Nobel Laureates filed a brief detailing why there is actually a difference between brocoli and health insurance:

First, all of us get sick and have accidents, or just wear out, and need medical care. Second, health care can be very costly -- health care for the most expensive 1 percent of Americans costs $85,000 a year, almost one-and-a-half times the median income and three times the financial assets of the average American family. But third, the need for health care is largely unpredictable -- high-cost events are often unforeseen. This combination of uncertainty and high cost explains why we have health insurance.

Fourth, health insurance is often not available to those who need health care the most. People in poor health faced unaffordable premiums or pre-existing condition exclusions or are denied coverage. Insurance has not solved the problem of availability.

Fifth, the economists observe, federal law requires hospitals to provide emergency care regardless of ability to pay. The uninsured often get medical treatment too late, when it is less effective and far more expensive. Each year taxpayers, insured employers and individuals, and providers pay for $43 billion worth of uncompensated care. Individuals who do not purchase health insurance are essentially betting that others will pay for their care when they need it and can't afford it.

Or to put my own spin on it, what people fail to see is that a person buying or not buying brocoli has no direct or indirect effect on me. Yes, if a lot of people chose not to buy brocoli, the price of brocoli may be affected, but as a commodity, if one day I was faced with the real need to buy brocoli or let's say die, I would not be at risk of bankruptcy as a result.

If, on the other hand, there was a class of people who decided not to buy health insurance, in blatant disregard of the fact that one day they will find themselves in the indisputable need of health care, then the costs that are carried over to me are significantly greater and patently unfair.

Bottom line - even if health insurance is optional, health care is not. To quote Republican Mitt Romney, "Remember, someone has to pay for health care. . . . Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on the government is not libertarian."

What Congress is requiring is that the money we will all be required to spent at some point in our lives for health care, simply be amortized across a longer period of time, to lessen the financial burden not only on our fellow Americans, but also ourselves.

1 Comment

I will keep repeating it till I'm blue in the face: If the feds can penalize me (taxwise) for not buying a house (and they do!) then they can penalize someone else for not buying health insurance. What is the problem, exactly?

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  • I will keep repeating it till I'm blue in the face: If the feds can penalize me (taxwise) for not buying a house (and they do!) then they can penalize someone else for not buying health insurance. What is the problem, ex...

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