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Opposition to the Individual Mandate Not a Question of Liberty

In my home state of Illinois, the possession of a liability-only car insurance policy is a condition of the right to own and operate a motor vehicle. While this state of affairs adds an additional financial burden to automobile owners, the general consensus is that the law is necessary. In an orderly society, we can’t very well have folks driving about smashing into other cars without means of restitution. Oh sure there will be automobile accident-related lawsuits as long as there are daytime commercials paid for by bottom-feeding attorneys, but at the very least, basic car insurance mandates more often than not mean that if you find yourself in a fender bender, your car will be repaired. Personal liberty ends at the presumed right to destroy without consequences.

For obvious reasons, Republicans would rather liken the health insurance mandate portion of Obamacare (a sound bite ready-slur I am more than willing to take back as a proud Presidenntial supporter) to the force feeding of broccoli to American citizens than consider the apples to apples comparison I have raised above. Because commons sense isn’t helpful if we’re to continue a dysfunctional health care system that benefits everyone but the patients.

Treatment decisions have long ceased to be made by the physicians performing the exam. Monthly health insurance premiums run more than your average mortgage payment and yet for most of us, we’ll never see a modicum of return on the investment. A trip to the emergency room for standard care results in a whopper of a invoice with an $80 line item for two Tylenol.

While much of the blame for this lose-lose situation (your money and the standards of care) resides with a lack of price-controlled state services offered by such “socialist” regimes as India, Israel, and pretty much the rest of the world, it would seem the individual mandate is a small effort at trying to control astronomical costs.

Consider the aforementioned expense of a basic emergency room visit. One of my colleagues suffers from a peanut allergy. For reasons unknown, he tried an eggroll for the first time in his life several weeks ago…and I think we know what happened next. He was dispatched to the emergency room for a stiff drug cocktail to reduce swelling and restore normal breathing. He availed himself of these services for a couple of hours and was asleep in his own bed that evening. Mercifully, my colleague is in possession of a solid health insurance plan. Because several weeks later he opened a bill in the amount of $4,026.

Part of the reason that basic services continue their disproportionate unaffordability is the large risk pool created by individuals without health insurance. And there are a lot of them. Yesterday the Ironton Tribune opined that “14 percent of Americans are without health insurance by choice or lack of access…Those decisions, to avoid health care, impact all insured persons by raising the fundamental costs of care to all who took the responsible path of paying to insure protection.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not entirely agree with the conclusion drawn by the Tribune. There’s a large subsect within that 14 percent that simply cannot afford a policy, or don’t have a job that offers coverage. And therein lies the small-business opportunity, the employment creation and economic stimulus potential offered by the individual mandate.

In Illinois, there are oodles of mom and pop basic car insurance providers, who offer lower-income families the opportunity to remain legal without breaking the bank. Filing a claim may be more frustrating than dealing with a higher-cost option like State Farm, but the point is that there are choices. A similar health care mandate would create a vacuum for upstart challengers to the Blue Cross and United Healthcares of the world. And in the process, those with premium plans would see their bills systematically lowered, no longer covering the cost of their uninsured neighbors.

This sort of equanimity is exactly what the GOP and its Supreme Court friends need to avoid. Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Insurance – these are the tricycle wheels upon which the party turns. The lobbyists, donors and other players within the insurance game stand to lose quite a bit if they’re no longer the only game in town, if the cost of those two Tylenol adjusts to something approaching reality.

Thus those who wish to purchase health insurance but can’t afford it, or Americans who suffer from one of the ever-expanding list of “pre-existing conditions” used to deny them treatment for which they pay premiums, may continue to go without the security afforded impoverished citizens of certain Third World countries.

This has nothing to do with civil liberties and (surprise!) everything to do with avarice and political power. Why car insurance and not health insurance?

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