The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the new health care law’s individual mandate today (hear the arguments on C-SPAN). The individual mandate requires that everyone in America purchase health insurance.
The debate over the morality and fiscal potency of the health care law very interesting, but that’s not what the Supreme Court court is deliberating. They’re simply trying to figure if the federal government has the power to mandate that you buy something, overriding state’s rights. It’s really a debate about the relative power of the federal government relative to state governments.
The constitutional opponents of the law believe that allowing a mandate would remove any identifiable limiting principle. This means that the government can next force you to do anything else because it’s “good for you”.
The best question (in my mind) asked by the proponents of the law (such as myself) is: what happens when an uninsured person shows up at the hospital and can’t pay out of pocket even a small fraction of the cost? In fact, no one is really asking this question fully. It seems everyone assumes that of course we treat the person to the best of our abilities and then the taxpayer has to flip the bill. It seems that the people that are demanding their personal liberty be protected are really operating on the assumption that they will not get sick or will be able to save enough to cover the costs. In their minds, they can do a better job at fighting off sickness than their less-clever neighbor. That assumption reminds of the assumption folks have when they recite the wedding vows. You can’t base a policy that determines the well being of millions on hope.
Just to be clear, whether the health care law is deemed constitutional or not, to me, is much less important than the fact that our current health care system is broken and this law is one of the possible fixes. If it’s not constitutional, then we need to do something else that is, but we can’t afford (literally) to do nothing.
As a side note, I discovered that there are services out there that allow you to hire a person to stand in line for you. The rate I saw was $36 per hour. This came up because people stood in line for days to be able to get one of the 60 seats open to the public for individual mandate hearing.