Earlier this week, the Health Care Reform bill was signed into law. I expressed my misgivings with the bill in my last post. I also expressed in my earlier post about M&M's that I think it is generally a bad idea for Congress to pass laws that are so huge that no one has read them in their entirety. I'd like to convey the fact that even if I supported everything in the bill, I would not happy with the way that it was passed. Backroom political deals, complete disinterest in the opinions of those who a representative represents, and faith in Presidential executive orders that are completely non-binding in legal terms are not the way business is supposed to be done in Washington. We should demand better from our elected officials. After all, they work for us, not vice versa.
Still, the real sticking point for me is the whole issue of mandating health insurance. The bill has a section in which all adults are required to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. (Partly this is problematic because since the fine will be lower than what many private companies charge for insurance, and the bill also is supposed to remove any restrictions on companies turning people down for pre-existing conditions, a lot of penny-pinchers will simply wait until they are ill or injured to buy an insurance plan, which somewhat defeats the purpose of buying insurance in the first place.) Think about that: the federal government is going to require you to buy something. If you don't, you are breaking the law.
Now, some of you may not think that's such a bad idea. Everyone has to contribute to the pot for everyone to receive the benefits, right? When you choose to buy insurance, after all, that's what happens. You pay in a small part, and people who need it benefit from your payment. When you need the money, you benefit from what other people have paid in. If you never use it, you have no benefit except the peace of mind that comes from having a safety net. Maybe you noticed that I emphasized the word "choose" up there. That's right, before this bill passed there was a choice. That choice is effectively gone. Sure, you can choose which one to buy, but the buying itself is no longer in question. You will buy health insurance, or you will pay a penalty. They're getting your money one way or the other.
Besides, you have to buy car insurance, right? Well, not if you don't drive. Not if you don't own/rent a car. Also, car insurance mandates come from the states, not the federal government, and each state has different requirements for its policies. If you really get burned on your state's auto insurance laws, you do have the choice to go to a different state where the requirements suit you. Whereas when the government tells you to do something, there is nowhere else to go as long as you're a citizen of the US. This is almost like the government telling you to buy a car. (Maybe they can just ban imports; this will improve market conditions for US auto manufacturers.)
Now, if you still don't see the problem that I have, let's take this a bit further. (After all, I'm sure you can think of one or two programs from Washington that have been abused and expanded a lot since they were first enacted.) This bill sets a precedent that the federal government can require you to buy something from the private sector, and they will track which purchase you make. Now imagine that someone ginned up enough support to pass a bill that mandates that you buy one gallon of chocolate ice cream once a month to support the dairy industry. Don't get me wrong--I love chocolate ice cream. But some of the joy of eating it might vanish when I have seven gallons sitting in my freezer because I can't eat that much in a month and still maintain my physical condition for being in the Army. Not to mention, I might have preferred to buy cookies and cream, but I only have so much money for ice cream and I must fill my chocolate quota first. Maybe I'll skip the next couple of months, but then they'll fine me, and not only might that cause consequences with my federal military employment, but that's money that I wanted to save for a plane ticket to visit my family back home, despite the fact that they're getting sick of chocolate ice cream too.
Let's step on a few more toes, shall we? The Bill of Rights says that I have a right to keep and bear arms. Suppose the NRA lobbies successfully to mandate that everyone reinforce that right by purchasing a firearm. Now you have to buy a gun or rifle, register it, and keep it on your property. And let's not forget that a firearm is just an expensive club unless you have ammunition, so you must have a full box of appropriate ammo for your weapon of choice. And if you have kids, you have to buy safety locks to keep it out of their curious hands. All of the sudden, something that was supposed to secure freedom has become an obstacle to freedom instead. At least if your neighbor accidentally shoots you with his government-mandated Colt .45, they've thought ahead by making you get insured.