I was driving today and heard on the radio a clip of Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. In a brief few seconds Romney startled me, insulted me, and motivated me to clarify what’s been a sore point all through the talk of Obamacare and the “mandate”. Romney staffers, please copy and paste and send to your candidate, unless you want him to flame out in the primary in short order.
Mandatory automobile liability insurance and mandatory medical insurance are not only not the same thing, they are OPPOSITES.
Romney was defending this argument; if it’s acceptable that buying car insurance is mandated by government, why not medical insurance?
One of the counter-arguments he apparently hears from his “conservative friends” (as he condescends to describe us) was, “if we don’t have a car, we aren’t required to have car insurance.” And Mitt Romney almost sneered his response, which I paraphrase because I wasn’t able to write it down– ‘well, it’s obvious that if you live in America and want to work, then you’re going to have to have a car. Let’s not waste time being silly.’
And that was that. Argument dispensed with, in the mind of Mitt Romney. If government can force us to have car insurance, then the mandate for health insurance is reasonable and constitutional.
Although it it is by no means the center of the argument, I begin where he did.
If you do not have a car, and if you do not drive, and if you do not have a license, you certainly are NOT required to have car insurance. Silly though this may seem to Romney, there are millions of people who do not have cars in America, and many of them work. Lots of people in big cities don’t have them, because there is public transport and because the upkeep and parking of a car is expensive in a big city. And many elderly people have stopped driving. The “mandate” to have car insurance is based on your BEHAVIOR, not on being American and upright and breathing. If you don’t drive, you aren’t required to have car insurance.
But now let’s get to the center of it.
What is “mandatory car insurance”? It is liability insurance, one way of “demonstrating financial responsibility” for potential harm caused by your driving decisions. If you are rich, there is another way; you can set aside minimum amounts of money similar to the minimum legal coverages in a car policy, and show proof of THOSE funds when asked by police. It is not the insurance policy itself that is mandated; it is FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY for your driving. And this is the heart of the argument.
You have an individual responsibility TO OTHERS for the results of YOUR DRIVING.
If you cause an accident then you must pay for the damage you’ve done, for other people’s car repairs, medical bills and so forth. Driving a car is dangerous; if you make a careless mistake, others can suffer harm and financial loss. Your liability insurance is the way you demonstrate to the motoring public that you accept responsibility for and can pay for your mistakes.
Car insurance is mandatory only because your driving is an actual risk to others.
But medical insurance has nothing to do with being responsible to others for your actions which may harm them. It is a financial instrument, a way of managing financial risk in your personal life.
Becoming sick or injured is a risk for every person, a possibility of gigantic future expenses. Medical insurance is a personal strategy to keep yourself from being bankrupted by your own medical bills. Medical insurance has nothing to do with responsibility to the general public. It’s the opposite; it’s being financially responsible for yourself and your family. You pay premiums to an insurance company, and in exchange for them (by the terms of your contract, not at their whim as the left often complains) they pay portions of large bills which you MIGHT incur if you get sick or injured. They share your financial risk in exchange for the certainty of your regular payments.
So forget the comparison with car insurance. Car insurance is about proving you can pay the bills for the other guy if you cause a car accident. But the “mandate” under Obamacare, and Romneycare, is simply the state compelling you to pay into a plan for the express purpose of making those payments lower for other people.
In a word, it’s redistribution of wealth.
Attention Romney Campaign– we the people do not think it is unreasonable for individuals to be held legally responsible for the consequences of their own actions behind the wheel of a dangerous machine. We all SHOULD be responsible for that, and we want every person to be responsible for his own actions. But we DO object to being held responsible for the cost of someone else’s medical insurance!
Medical insurance is my personal business. It is a financial instrument of sharing risk which I incorporate into my financial plan for my family’s future BY MY FREE CHOICE. The use of the “commerce clause” to justify forcing me to purchase a product is simply wrong and unconstitutional. What is happening, in the simplest terms, is that one person is being compelled to pay so that another person can have stuff, or more stuff, or have it cheaper. My right to choose how I manage my personal financial life is thus taken from me. I am simultaneously forced to do two things; to put in so that another person somewhere else can take out, and also to accept a narrow and expensive and unsatisfactory product in exchange for a better one I might have bought if my freedom to choose had not been taken from me.
But Mitt won’t hear me. After all, I’m one of his “conservative friends”, and he “happens to hold a different opinion” than I do.
I won’t forget this, and neither should you.