June 28, 2012

Why I Support the Individual Mandate

Was I surprised with today's SCOTUS decision? Yes, I was -- I had not been having confident thoughts on it -- but I'm pleased with it, for a variety of reasons. 

Let's start with this one: I'm tired of paying for other people's health care.

There, I said it. Makes me a bad person I'm sure, but at least I'm honest.

The big deal today, obviously, was Justice Roberts joining the four liberals in upholding the constitutionality of the 'individual mandate' requiring people either get insurance or pay a penalty.  The penalty starts at less than $100 a person, and goes up to about $695 per person at its highest. It'll never be more than about 3.5% of a family's income, and will almost always be less. At the high end, the per-person cost is about the cost of an ER visit, so in the overall scheme of things it's not a ton of money for people who have money, can afford health insurance, but choose not to have it. 

Most of the comments from the Right talk about how this whopping penalty, or tax, or incentive of less than a night on the town is such a huge intrusion into their lives.  And of course the R's in the House have already decided their repeal vote will come on July 11th.

To me the larger intrusion is the cost those of us with insurance have to pay to make up for those who don't buy it when they could. We all pay, through our premiums and fees paid by our employers and (in New York at least) through surcharges added onto benefit payments. 

If a person truly cannot afford insurance, and has no coverage options available through the many safety net programs that are out there, that's one thing.

But if a person's not indigent, and makes a choice not to pay for health insurance, is it OK that I'm forced to pay for something I don't want, as long as they don't have to pay for what they don't want? 

No - it's not fair. And now, under ACA, people who choose not to participate will pay a little bit for their bad decision, and I'll have to pay a little less on their behalf. 

Just one reason I'm for the ACA.