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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Debate: Should the Government Make You Have Health Insurance?


In just under two weeks, the Supreme Court will start its hearings on the Health Care Reform Law’s individual mandate—the requirement that all Americans carry some sort of health insurance or face a fine. The individual mandate has been a major bone of contention in the health care debate, and our readers, like many other Americans, were divided on the issue. Here’s what they had to say:

Davedsel57: [The government should make you have health insurance] only if they will pay the premiums or make them much less expensive. Health care coverage has gotten too expensive and does not cover enough over the past few years, as everyone is aware. If the government is going to force health care on everyone, then it should be cost effective for the citizens and be worth having.

Apprd: Should the government force you to purchase low fat foods (since, in the aggregate, a population dieting on low fat foods would presumably have fewer medical conditions long term and thus alleviate some of the costs contributing to high premiums)? Or should the government force me to buy birth control or condoms (since in the aggregate, a population not procreating will reduce the population’s size long term and thus alleviate some of the costs of contributing to high premiums)? The people in this country have gotten entirely too complacent about what they will allow the government to require of them. People need to wake up.

Edwhug: The problem with being able to opt out of health insurance is that healthy young people…wait until they “need” it. This “adverse selection” process means that only at-risk people will pay the premium to get health insurance, which will make the premiums high. The whole idea of insurance is to spread the risk. So yes, I think everyone, healthy and sick, should be part of the same insurance pool.

Anon_1631: Read the Constitution. The Federal government’s authority begins and ends there. Healthcare is WAY outside its realm of authority.

Plaidskirt: At the present time I am paying for myself and for those who don’t have insurance. And I don’t believe that we can possibly say, “You don’t have insurance? Sorry, we’re not going to treat you!” We are, however, still faced with the dilemma that we don’t know how to reduce the overall cost of medical care without compromising quality. Talk is cheap and there is lots of it around! I do have a suggestion that perhaps the forum can comment on: since there is some resistance to charging people [for their] poor living habits (overeating, smoking, for example)…, we instead extend a reduction in cost to those who follow a healthy lifestyle. Some plans may already do this.

Kabernathy: No. The federal government should not require anyone to have healthcare. The government needs to stay out of individuals’ personal decisions on where and how they spend their income.

Rhondamay: If there is to be any control of escalating healthcare costs it makes sense that everyone should have health insurance coverage. One of the main reasons that medical costs are high is cost shifting, passing the costs of the uninsured that are unable to pay onto those with insurance. The Affordable Health Care Act is a great start and I strongly support it…For the system to work for the benefit of all we must all have coverage and there are also tax credits to help offset the costs for low income, uninsured individuals.

Mlk240: I think it is wrong, and against the Constitution, to make all citizens purchase something from the private sector…I think that everyone deserves affordable health care, but making us all purchase insurance isn’t the answer. If anything, the government should be doing more to regulate the insurance industry to make it more affordable for everyone…and also work to make it more difficult for insurers to drop people when they have a health issue…and regulate what must be covered on every basic policy. I really believe that most people would carry health insurance if they could afford it comfortably, but the problem is that they can’t…Insurance prices keep going up, but covering less, so no wonder so many Americans are struggling.

Chastens: Given that hospitals cannot, by law, refuse treatment to the uninsured, I don’t see how individuals can be allowed to opt out of coverage. Those who do still get treatment, subsidized by you and me.

When you get treated in the emergency room and don’t pay, the hospital doesn’t just eat those losses. They recoup them by increasing the cost of the hospital’s services across the board and pass the increases along to Medicare, Medicaid, other public assistance programs, and medical insurance companies, who in turn pass them along to tax payers and policy holders. If you have medical insurance, you get a double whammy!

Triple whammy, actually, because the uninsured often forgo even inexpensive preventative treatments and management of chronic health problems until they have serious, expensive-to-treat illnesses…

For those who truly cannot afford insurance, increasing the risk pool would help drop the cost of a policy to an affordable range, and for those who truly can’t afford it, I’d much rather be subsidizing policy payments that enable them to receive less costly preventative care and management of chronic diseases. And avoidance of the more costly medical care can contribute to helping put rising medical costs under control by reducing unreimbursed emergency care.

I fully support mandatory healthcare coverage, with fines for those who don’t comply the same way I support mandatory auto insurance. The uninsured harm us all.

To read the full debate, click here.

Posted by: Brianne Moore at 7:28 pm


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