Making People Buy Things

Questioning whether congress had the constitutional right to require people to buy health insurance should have been horse-laughed out of court. Governments have been making people buy things ever since I was a kid: air bags, baby seats, bike lights, car insurance, catalytic converters, child support, circuit breakers, drivers’ licences, home insulation, lawn mowers, leaf rakes, life jackets, motorcycle helmets, oars, safety flares, seat belts, sewer hookups, smoke detectors, snow shovels, tail lights and even clothes (nudity is illegal)… Right wingers periodically try to pass laws forcing people to buy firearms.

The Supreme court ruled correctly. If the government has the right to tax, namely to demand a fee and give nothing tangible in return, it surely also has the right to demand a fee where the taxpayer gets something tangible (health insurance) back. To give the Republicans debating point fodder in the presidential election, Chief Justice John Roberts did not express his decision that way, but ruled mandatory health insurance is a tax.

But health insurance premiums are clearly not taxes in the ordinary sense and neither are any of the those other things you are forced to buy. A tax is something you pay into a general revenue fund for the common good; you don’t get some object or contract in return. Republicans are playing dishonest word games to make it look like Obama is raising taxes.

Obama is actually lowering the total amount of money people have to pay for health care, the very opposite of raising taxes. Americans pay three times what anyone else does for their health care. They also have the worst outcomes, of any developed country. They are two rungs lower than Cuba in IMR (Infant Mortality Rate). If Republicans would get out of Obama’s way and work for the benefit of the American people rather than big Pharma and the HMOs (Health Management Organisations), he could save them massive amounts of money more. There is an incredible amount of low-hanging fat in American health care that could be pruned to improve quality and lower costs, starting with standardised, simplified computer billing that every other developed country uses.

~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)