“Health Insurance Is for Everyone”
Commentary by Fareed Zakaria for TIME Magazine
As election season rolls around and November comes increasingly closer, the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) is going to be a major talking point for both presidential candidates. In his “Worldview” column for TIME Magazine, Fareed Zakaria explores the reasons for the enactment of the most controversial part of the health care reform: the individual mandate. The individual mandate dictates that every permanent resident of America must own health care, or pay a fine, collected by the IRS.
This is controversial because those with libertarian leanings believe this is an extreme and unacceptable intrusion of government into private lives. Then why was the individual mandate passed into law? In short, because it will reduce the financial burden on the US Government to cover health care costs. When an uninsured person receives care and cannot pay for it, the government usually ends up paying for it, since there is no insurance company to step in. Thus the individual mandate, which goes hand in hand with another part of the law that says insurance companies cannot deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, is designed to curb government spending on health care. (The process is, of course, much more detailed than I’ve mentioned. This article goes a little more in depth; if you want more information about the law, this video from Kaiser Permanente is a good place to start.) According to Zakaria, this idea was first proposed by none other than the conservative thinktank, the Heritage Foundation.
I’m for the individual mandate. I’m also a fiscal conservative. I support the individual mandate not because I think health insurance is a right that everybody has, but because I agree with the Heritage Foundation: it makes good economic sense. First, this reduces the financial burden on the federal government, allowing them to spend money elsewhere. (Like public education. I’d love to see a tuition decrease.) Second, it creates an opportunity for the markets to be more competitive in order to gain the business of the millions of people who are currently uninsured. Simply put, this makes sense to me. The government already makes people buy car insurance when they drive so that accident costs are neither devastating nor deferred; to me it does not seem like a large leap to require people to buy health insurance.
Do I think the plan is perfect? No. There are lots of issues to explore, such as why health insurance continues to be linked to employment, which creates a disadvantage for smaller companies and those who have to by health insurance on their own. The health care market is still quite inefficient. In a coming post, I’ll reblog an article where the author looks at more issues for reform.