Mitt Romney championed universal health care while governor in Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman pushed a version of universal coverage while governor in Utah, but both are now finding the burdens of this baggage to be insurmountable in a primary campaign largely dominated by the Tea Party factions of the GOP.

Why is this concept so radioactive?

Individuals must have insurance to operate any motor vehicle. We must have insurance if we borrow money to buy a car, house, motor boat, motorcycle or camper. Employers must carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Licensed builders must carry liability insurance. Defense contractors must carry all kinds of insurance. Doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, dentists, generally do carry liability insurance even if it is not mandated. Every employee wants health insurance from their employer, and every government employer provides health insurance. Every union demands health insurance coverage for employees. No one is rioting in the streets about these traditions.

Meanwhile, in the many sectors of the economy where small employers cannot afford health insurance for employees, and self-employed healthy people pass up insurance until a family member gets cancer or AIDS or diabetes, a huge pool of uninsured people awaits. What do they await? Either the opportunity to buy insurance just as they are about to demand huge outlays for illnesses, or they  go to the emergency room and run up a huge tab for others to pay. “Others,” folks, means you and me. Because a lot of high-cost patients do not contribute to insurance, the costs passed on to taxpayers and hospitals are huge. Talk about unfunded liabilities.

So, please tell me, why is it such a nuclear hot-button topic that new health care laws will eventually require everyone to participate in health insurance?

The anti-Obamacare protesters proclaim an ethic of self-reliance and responsibility; “We don’t need the government telling us to buy insurance, inoculate our children or brush our teeth.” Yet, if they were truly responsible, they would eagerly participate in insurance pools for the very purpose of reducing costs to individuals in exchange for security of coverage. If only the sick buy coverage, no one can afford it. Insurance is by definition a sharing of risk. All responsible individuals should participate, and if they will not do so voluntarily, just like union-driven employers and government employers, they should have to.

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Published on May 31, 2011

  • Ben

    @CAM – You can opt out… die. I’m kidding, but the point remains that, given a choice, most of us would choose to live, rather than die. Human beings have always survived via cooperation and submitting some of our freedoms to the good of the larger group.

    Think about the history of agrarian society in this country… how did barns get built? They had a barn raising. You didn’t have to attend, but if you didn’t when it came time that you needed a barn to shelter the animals on which your life might depend… nobody gonna help you out. So, you gonna go help raise that barn, or not?

    Here’s how to define whether your idea is moral or not: if everyone did what you are thinking about doing, what would happen?

    IE, if everyone decided not to drive? if everyone decided to “earn below a certain amount” in order to not pay taxes?

    … and if everyone decided to go it alone in regard to their health care? Then much human life will be wasted due to curable illness.

    Freedom of choice is American, but so is maintaining the proper balance between individual liberty and the social order that sustains it.

  • Greg

    Insurance socializes risk…

    …and privatizes profits.

    Single payer can socialize risk *at a lower cost* to us. (In other words, we’d keep more of our money, and hence, more of our freedom.)

    For example, the school districts in Wyoming, together, could very likely hire two to five individuals to process bills from health care providers at a lower cost to districts and their employees than insurance companies (check out insurance companies’ profits in these markets, and the percentage of CEOs salaries/benefits) could ever do.

    Check out Vermont’s steps taken in this direction in recent months/years.

    God Bless America and our ability to innovate.

  • Lowell Hunt

    Yes wake up can you say, we are broke, no more spending. YES it is unconstitutional the Government can not make me buy ANYTHING. you need
    insurance YOU need to buy it or pay the bill yourself.

  • CAM

    The difference is that you can opt out of Car insurance by not driving/owning a car. The Obama plan would charge you a fee to simply be alive. Only Unions and other cronies would be exempt. Right now there is no fee leveled on a citizen that they cannot make a choice to get out of. Taxes? Earn below a certain amount and you don’t pay. Passport fees? Don’t get one. Auto insurance? don’t drive. Electricity surcharges? go off the grid. So why is it now “American” to be forced to pay for a service that you might not want any part of? How is this American? I thought freedom of choice was American.

  • Jane Ifland

    No question single payer is the only workable solution. The question is why we’re having such a hard time getting there. George Lakoff is a linguist, the left’s counter to the right’s despicable Frank Luntz. He ascribes the whole deplorable situation to the investments the right has made in making their world view the default. The world view stems from what Lakoff calls the Strict Father model of the family, one of (mainly) two. The other he calls the Nurturant Parent model. Essentially, Strict Father is the manifestation of patriarchy in the family setting; Nurturant Parent is the manifestation of democracy. The core values of Strict Father are discipline and obedience, instilled through painful punishment. The core values of Nurturant Parent are nurturance and protection, instilled through nurturance and protection. Each family model provides an allegory for understanding government. Everyone has both, and may manifest either in any given situation. The trick is to get the model you use activated when someone’s mind is on politics. Strict Father says markets are the place where good people, the disciplined ones, reap the rewards of their virtue. Ideal markets, it says, must have unlimited power to reward the disciplined and punish the undisciplined so that they will learn discipline. And that is why there must be profit to be made at every possible juncture, including on the sick and desperate: to make plenty of opportunity for the good, disciplined people to capitalize (yes, capitalize) on their virtue. This is interesting enough in its own right; the fascinating part is how the cons have made these anti-American ideas the norm for so many people. They did it by –no surprise– discipline, enforced with punishment. Luntz puts the words out (“death panels,” for example) and every connected Republican must use those words exactly or pay the price. This, according to Lakoff, goes right down to the office level. Someone using the wrong words is required to make a contribution to the pizza fund. The right words, handed down by higher-ups (fathers) don’t need to have any connection to the reality (again, “death panels”) they just have to activate the Strict Father model, and they have to be repeated enough to be mistaken for truth by people who aren’t paying attention. The great failing of progressive interests is that we still think we should be talking about issues. People don’t vote issues; they don’t vote their self-interest. They vote identity and values. Which values they vote (Strict Father/Nurturant Parent) depends on which model is activated. To activate the Nurturant Parent model, we would ideally all be using the same words on every occasion to show how our values manifest in policy. How to get there? In a Huffington Post piece, Lakoff applauds President Obama’s speech nominally on the budget in April for its clear statements of values. In it, he says, Obama laid out right and wrong and showed how true traditional American values like empathy and fairness can be used to decide how we’re going to handle the mess the Law of The Jungle boys have left us with. I’ve recently written a piece that required me to really study that speech and I concur. It’s at http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/04/13/text-of-obama-speech-on-the-deficit/ We will get single payer health care when we remember that we are all connected and that empathy and fairness are the true hallmarks of the American character.

  • Robert Hoskins

    Stupid question. The real question is not the need for a large pool. The real question is instead why should we buy private insurance from an industry that has a long track record of screwing policy holders in favor of shareholders? Romneycare and Obamacare both achieve only greater profits for industry and will do nothing for individual Americans. That’s the problem. Single payer is the only rational solution, as the state of Vermont has demonstrated.

    RH

  • Scott

    SPOT ON. It’s not unconstitutional. Its American. This Tea Bag mentality has really caused damage to reasonable dialogue. And now, to boot, all of our federal represenatives
    voed to end our Medicare as we know it. It is absolutely time for people to wake up and get involved with the issue and know the facts.

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