A handful of judges are in the midst of deciding whether the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance is legal. Some say it is, some say the government can’t legislate this. Stop and think.
We already have mandates– they’re called Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and unemployment. All are “contributions” deducted from our paychecks every two weeks, pre tax. When these “mandates” were instituted as part of the New Deal, and Great Society agendas, there was a huge cry from those that said the government was interfering and “forcing” people to pay into the system.
These same folks put in their paperwork at age 65 to enroll in the national health insurance for seniors, get social security checks like clockwork when they retire – regardless of their bank accounts – or who can keep their elderly parent in a decent nursing home halfway across the country thanks to Medicaid reimbursement to the institution.
Is the system perfect? Of course not. All of the safety net laws were tweaked and revised over time, just as the Affordable Care Act will be. However, they were starting points that provided real benefits and peace of mind for the old, the infirm, the poor. Before these bills became law, if you were broke, sick, or lost your job, too bad. If you were old, you had better hope you had family to care for you. If you didn’t, you lived in poverty, or went hungry. Maybe even became homeless. And if you had a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma, tough luck. Was that better?
Some mandates do have a place in a society that values “the greater good.” Isn’t it preferable to have a few dollars taken out of every paycheck and know that if you lose your job you can still get healthcare if you get sick? Or would you rather lose your health insurance and go without care because of cost? And if you do get sick, your option is no care or going to an emergency room as a last resort. We already pay for people who do this, through higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs that are passed on by the insurance companies and hospitals.
We rely on Social Security and Medicare to help see us through our later years. These programs are not means tested – regardless of income level, when you reach a certain age, you are entitled to these benefits. If you lose your job tomorrow, you can apply for unemployment compensation to help tide you over until you find a new one. If you lose your health insurance, the options are either non-existent or out of reach for most of us.
So really, what is all the shouting about?