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 Insurance Mandate a Republican idea
Wayne in WA State
Posted: Apr 1 2012, 12:25 PM
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ObamaRomneyCare and the individual mandate: Proof that it's a Republican idea
Austin Photo Author_Jeffrey Kreisberg
By Jeffrey Kreisberg
03.31.12 | 10:00 am

The Supreme Court held hearings last week on the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare law. At the heart of the hearings is the law’s “individual mandate,” (referred to here as “the mandate”) requiring every American who can afford healthcare insurance to purchase it or pay a penalty. Its critics (Republicans) tell us that the mandate violates basic constitutional principles of individual freedom and limited government. Its supporters (Democrats), believe the mandate will prevent free-riders from receiving healthcare services without paying for them because they lack insurance thereby threatening our freedom.

Believe it or not, the original architects of the mandate are staunch advocates of the free market, like the researchers at the conservative Heritage Foundation. They realized that stopping free-riders was in complete harmony with the free market. If you don’t pay for stuff like healthcare you threaten my liberty by shifting your healthcare costs to me.

Healthcare is a unique product that really has no place in the free market. Hardly anyone pays for healthcare out-of-pocket because it’s too expensive. Insurance companies are the real consumer — they set the prices and pay the bills.

This problem of free healthcare is so substantial that as recently as May, 2011, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich castigated individuals who didn’t purchase health insurance yet could afford it (watch him say himself here), calling them free-riders and saying that they ought to be required by law at least to post a bond. "Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse," Gingrich wrote in his own newsletter. "These free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers."

Republican lawmakers like Charles Grassley, once ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, publicly embraced the idea of the mandate as part of healthcare reform (watch him say it himself here). That is, until the President decided to include it in his healthcare legislation, that's when Grassley flip-flopped.

And now we have Mitt Romney, the architect of Romneycare, a statewide healthcare plan passed when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts. Romney enthusiastically promoted the mandate as a way of enforcing individual responsibility because, as he liked to say, people who can pay for their healthcare share shouldn't pass their bills onto others. He worked tirelessly with his buddy, Senator Ted Kennedy (the most liberal of all liberals) to bring Romneycare and the mandate to Massachusetts and it was enthusiastically supported by Newt Gingrich. Indeed, it's working so well that the Obama administration used Romneycare as a blueprint for Obamacare, which resulted in ObamaRomneycare. Now that Romney is running for President he denounces ObamaRomneycare and says he will repeal his own bill.

Let’s consider why Republicans wanted the mandate. It’s because the mandate would bring more revenue to insurance companies, which they could use to keep premiums down for sick people and those with preexisting conditions. And healthy people who unexpectedly needed care would get it through their plan, instead of racking up huge emergency room bills that typically get passed on to everybody else who pays for healthcare insurance. It is estimated that this cost-shifting adds $1000 to every families health insurance premiums.

In the hearings last week, several justices suggested that if Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance, then by the same logic it can require them to buy cell phones, broccoli, pre-paid funeral arrangements, and in fact, anything.

Our healthcare system is broken. Fifty million Americans are uninsured and healthcare spending is 17 percent of the U.S. economy.

This is ridiculous because while you can say no to that 60 inch plasma, you can’t say no to healthcare. Healthcare is a unique product that really has no place in the free market. Hardly anyone pays for healthcare out-of-pocket because it’s too expensive. Insurance companies are the real consumer — they set the prices and pay the bills.

When was the last time you asked your doctor how much a specific treatment costs? If you have insurance, probably never. And if you don’t have insurance good luck finding out the price. There’s no single place. like a Sears, where you can look up prices for procedures or comparison shop for them. The prices are set by the insurance companies not the market place, which is why there may be dozens of different prices for the same procedure in the same hospital. Plus, if you don’t have insurance, you can be charged three or four times more for a procedure than the price negotiated by the insurance companies.

If we’re going to fix healthcare, we must stop pretending that it’s just another “product” people buy and sell in the “free market”. When your bones break or vital organs fail you want to be treated and, if you don’t have insurance and cannot afford treatment the hospital either goes after you to pay your bill and drives you into bankruptcy or declares it a wash and shifts the costs onto those who have insurance. There’s a name for these free-riders, “accidental socialists”.

The only recourse the healthcare “market place” has is to withhold their services to the “free-riders” (this would be capitalism at its lowest), but this would be against the law and immoral. Some of us believe we shouldn’t let people bleed to death on the side of the road after an auto accident just because they don’t have insurance.

Our healthcare system is broken. Fifty million Americans are uninsured and healthcare spending is 17 percent of the U.S. economy. If we don’t do something about costs soon, the repercussions will be far worse than the bank failures in 2008. ObamaRomneycare isn't great, but it's a step in the right direction.

Although the law hasn’t been fully implemented, 50 million Americans are currently receiving life-saving preventative care, 2.5 million young adults can now remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, and millions of women now have access to mammograms and other care with no cost-sharing (unless you live in Texas).

Once the law is fully implemented in 2014, among other things, 94 percent of Americans will have health insurance and gender bias will be eliminated, allowing millions of women to purchase insurance at the same cost as men pay.

Republicans have traded their integrity to defeat Obama any way they can, even if it means denying healthcare to their constituents. Don’t let them get away with it. Get involved!

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Posted: Apr 2 2012, 11:55 AM
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I thought I posted something to this effect here last week, but maybe it was somewhere else. I first heard about it on Rachel's show.

Not that people can't change their minds, but it's so clear that the objections to AHCA are partisan and personal. Was it James who posted the cartoon under This Modern World that showed the person not objecting to anything except the fact that it was an Obama initiative? That's exactly where it's at. And while I also have mixed feelings about the individual mandate, I understand why it's necessary and what it's rooted in. And I don't understand why people who accept mandatory auto insurance get all fired up over mandatory health insurance. Same thing, no?

It'll be interesting to see how the SCOTUS rules on this, but it's not looking too good.
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Wayne in WA State
Posted: Apr 2 2012, 12:45 PM
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I don't think the questioning we heard is any sure indication the mandate will be rejected by the Court. It could go either way. Decades of precedent in cases like state medical cannabis laws would have to be overturned to throw out the ACA. This radical court just may do that, we will see.
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