Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The "individual mandate" clause.

As you can imagine I'm a avid supporter of Mitt Romney, with hopes that he will be our next president. With that said, even I was a little shaken by the "individual mandate" clause that is in the new Massachusetts health care bill. Why should someone be (quasi-)forced into purchasing health care if they feel they don't need it? Well, Gov. Romney has shown his reasoning for this in his latest op-ed at OpinionJournal (please read the whole thing!).....

Another 40% of the uninsured were earning enough to buy insurance but had chosen not to do so. Why? Because it is expensive, and because they know that if they become seriously ill, they will get free or subsidized treatment at the hospital. By law, emergency care cannot be withheld. Why pay for something you can get free?

Of course, while it may be free for them, everyone else ends up paying the bill, either in higher insurance premiums or taxes. The solution we came up with was to make private health insurance much more affordable. Insurance reforms now permit policies with higher deductibles, higher copayments, coinsurance, provider networks and fewer mandated benefits like in vitro fertilization--and our insurers have committed to offer products nearly 50% less expensive. With private insurance finally affordable, I proposed that everyone must either purchase a product of their choice or demonstrate that they can pay for their own health care. It's a personal responsibility principle.

Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.

As the Governor points out, "individual mandates" are necessary because health care providers are legally obligated to treat you no matter what. If a health care provider could choose not to treat you because you chose not to get health insurance then the "individual mandate" wouldn't me necessary (what a libertarian paradise that would be, man!). Also, you can't simply "opt out" because you are still calculated as a risk to insurers and if you do get health care treatment then you are being subsidized by the government.

Finally, is this government meddling in your life? Sure, but so is auto insurance, seat belt laws, any safety standards, the FDA, etc. I know some of these are exactly condoned by libertarians, but you would be hard pressed to argue their practicality in the real world. I really, really appreciate the libertarian point of view (I try to apply some of it to my political philosophy) but in the real world we need real solutions. We should always be critical of government programs of any sort, but this doesn't mean that all programs aren't necessary or useful.


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