Mitt Romney championed universal health care while governor in Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman pushed a version of universal coverage while governor in Utah, but both are now finding the burdens of this baggage to be insurmountable in a primary campaign largely dominated by the Tea Party factions of the GOP.
Why is this concept so radioactive?
Individuals must have insurance to operate any motor vehicle. We must have insurance if we borrow money to buy a car, house, motor boat, motorcycle or camper. Employers must carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Licensed builders must carry liability insurance. Defense contractors must carry all kinds of insurance. Doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, dentists, generally do carry liability insurance even if it is not mandated. Every employee wants health insurance from their employer, and every government employer provides health insurance. Every union demands health insurance coverage for employees. No one is rioting in the streets about these traditions.
Meanwhile, in the many sectors of the economy where small employers cannot afford health insurance for employees, and self-employed healthy people pass up insurance until a family member gets cancer or AIDS or diabetes, a huge pool of uninsured people awaits. What do they await? Either the opportunity to buy insurance just as they are about to demand huge outlays for illnesses, or they go to the emergency room and run up a huge tab for others to pay. “Others,” folks, means you and me. Because a lot of high-cost patients do not contribute to insurance, the costs passed on to taxpayers and hospitals are huge. Talk about unfunded liabilities.
So, please tell me, why is it such a nuclear hot-button topic that new health care laws will eventually require everyone to participate in health insurance?
The anti-Obamacare protesters proclaim an ethic of self-reliance and responsibility; “We don’t need the government telling us to buy insurance, inoculate our children or brush our teeth.” Yet, if they were truly responsible, they would eagerly participate in insurance pools for the very purpose of reducing costs to individuals in exchange for security of coverage. If only the sick buy coverage, no one can afford it. Insurance is by definition a sharing of risk. All responsible individuals should participate, and if they will not do so voluntarily, just like union-driven employers and government employers, they should have to.