Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Debating the health insurance “individual mandate”

Posted by sanityinjection on February 11, 2010

One of the features that is likely to be included in any federal health care reform bill is the “individual mandate” – a legal requirement that every citizen must purchase health insurance or be subject to fines and penalties. This provision is generally seen as an essential part of any plan that expands health insurance coverage to just about everybody as the President and his allies want to do. It is necessary because you need to have the healthiest people – who might otherwise choose to gamble on not buying insurance – participating in the system in order to help pay for the cost of care for those who are sick and need expensive treatments.

A good example of this is the so-called “Massachusetts model” enacted by that state under its former Governor Mitt Romney. In Massachusetts, you are required to provide proof of your health insurance (sent to you by your insurance company) when you fill out your state income taxes. If you cannot do so, you are penalized.

Let us not beat around the bush: If you are forced to pay for something you don’t think you need, in order to subsidize it for somebody else – that is socialism. The individual mandate is the closest thing to the old left-wing goal of “socialized medicine” short of an actual government insurance program or “public option”.

A number of states such as Virginia are taking action to try to pre-empt a federal mandate by passing legislation banning it in their state. While it’s legally questionable whether such laws would actually be valid against a federal law, it is interesting to note that support for the idea is coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

Imagine for a moment you are Bill Gates. Why do you need health insurance? You can afford the cost of even the most expensive health care procedures. You have no incentive to pay monthly premiums against the chance of getting sick or injured. Under an individual mandate, you would be forced to buy health insurance not for your own good, but as a required contribution to the cost of everybody else’s insurance. Unfortunately for everybody else though, Bill Gates’ insurance isn’t necessarily any more expensive than ours, so he is not paying into the system any more than you or I do.

I believe that individual health insurance mandates are wrong in principle. If you have to be compelled to do something that’s supposed to be good for you, maybe it isn’t so good for you. If health care costs were more reasonable, there would not be such pressure to socialize them. Once again, we see that reducing the cost of health care is the most important reform, and that successfully doing so would reduce the need for other reforms. Any reform that achieves some other goal such as expanding coverage but fails to impact the actual cost of health care is essentially doomed to fail.

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One Response to “Debating the health insurance “individual mandate””

  1. Here are some ideas from a Republican perspective about what a truly bipartisan health care reform package could include:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32866.html

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