The Justice Department, to no one’s surprise, announced on Tuesday that it would appeal the ruling of a Virginia judge who found the “individual mandate” component of ObamaCare unconstitutional. Many ObamaCare critics were amazed that anyone could think it was constitutional. How can Congress force you to buy something?
The common rejoinder from the Administration is to compare health and auto insurance, but the crucial differences are that driving a car is voluntary, and the purchase of automobile insurance is enforced by the states, rather than the federal government. Take a look at your drivers’ license, and you will note it was issued by the state you live in, not Washington D.C. The comparison between ObamaCare and auto insurance would be more accurate if the federal government forced everyone to begin buying automobile insurance when they were born, regardless of when they began driving a car, and each person’s insurance covered damage to his own vehicle.
The Baltimore Sun explains the importance of the individual mandate in an editorial: “If insurance companies can’t turn down people with pre-existing conditions, there would be no reason for anyone to buy health insurance until they were sick. Healthy people would opt out, and the insurance pool would be filled only by those with expensive medical bills, thus driving up costs. By contrast, the individual mandate spreads the costs of medical care over the broadest number of people, which is the idea behind insurance in the first place.”
No, the “idea behind insurance in the first place” is that companies make money by selling insurance coverage based on the perception of risk. If someone is unlikely to make claims, they get discounted rates. A customer who is very likely to make claims pays more, or doesn’t get insured at all. This principle guides auto and health insurance equally. What would happen to car insurance companies if they were forced to write policies for habitual bad drivers at the same rate they charge for safe drivers? What would happen to the premiums safe drivers paid?
The Sun is confusing “insurance” with “welfare.” So is much of the public. Giving the government control over health care makes as much sense as letting them control the distribution of food. Actually, the average person needs food much more urgently than health care, but there’s not much support for the idea of nationalizing grocery stores. Good thing, too, because the inevitable result of government food distribution is starvation.
People abandon reason when it comes to discussing health care because they don’t see it is a commodity to be bought and sold. They view health expenditures as a penalty, which sick people are unfairly compelled to pay. It’s always tragic to hear of hard-working people who are financially ruined by an accident or illness. There are few other expenses that strike the average, compassionate American as so brutally unfair.
This is why the “individual mandate” doesn’t send ordinary folks streaming into the streets with pitchforks and torches, although they’re noticeably uneasy about it. The sense that people shouldn’t have to worry about paying for unexpected health problems leads naturally to the assumption of collective responsibility – that is, everyone should “share the burden” to make it less painful for individuals. That’s the way collectivism is sold, but that’s never how it works out. Just ask the people who were holding those precious ObamaCare waivers, before Judge Hudson increased their number from 222 to three hundred million.
ObamaCare was created by politicians preying on an irrational emotional response, exploiting it as a weakness to increase the power of the central State. It isn’t a logical solution to health insurance issues. It’s a huge pile of earmarks that flowed together into a trillion-dollar disaster, like the liquid-metal assassin in Terminator 2. The people trying to repeal it are the ones who seek to use reason in response to the passionate imperative the Sun’s editors correctly identify: “When people are sick, they seek treatment. And as a society, we have decided that we will not turn them away if they can’t pay.” We aren’t helping those sick people by acting stupid.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter