The Des Moines Register features a pro/con piece with different authors advocating mandated health care coverage, opposing it, or somewhere in the middle.
The part by Michael Tanner is where I come down on the subject:
the mandate crosses an important line: accepting the principle that it is the government’s responsibility to assure that every American has health insurance. In doing so, it opens the door to more widespread regulation of the health-care industry and political interference in personal health-care decisions. The result will be a slow but steady spiral downward toward a government-run health-care system.
And here is the eventual outcome of such an autocratic solution (as already evidenced in countries like Canada and England):
An individual mandate, therefore, should not be seen in a vacuum. It is more akin to the first in a series of dominoes. By distorting the health-care marketplace, an individual mandate sets in place a cascading series of additional mandates and regulations resulting, ultimately, in a government-run health-care system. For the vast majority, that would mean longer waits, higher prices and less care.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing in the article is that Dr. Robert Moffit from the Heritage Foundation, a (normally) conservative think tank, advocates something in the middle that I find unpalatable:
The option not on the table is to charge the cost of one’s personal irresponsibility to others (taxpayers). No one has a right to increase the existing burdens of the mandate on individual taxpayers. So, to be clear, persons should have the personal right to self-insure, but they also have the personal responsibility to pay their own medical bills. Rights and responsibility are inseparable.
I agree that taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for other people, but to force people to pay for health insurance is unAmerican. If the demonstration of willingness to pay is some monumental threshhold, then only the rich would be able to maintain their freedom. If this is Moffit's plan, only the wealthy would be able to opt out of the mandate. Essentially, they'd be buying their freedom from government mandates.
And as important as freedom is, a situation where freedom from government oppression can be purchased by the wealthy turns my stomach.
Also, there won't be enough wealthy folks opting out of such an oppressive system to stop that downward spiral of government involvement mentioned by Tanner above. So even under the Heritage Foundation plan, you'd still end up with socialized medicine masquerading as something "free market."
Most chilling, our legislature is going to be looking at health care solutions in the next year, and from the language of SB 131 (which was tabled) and SB 132, I'm very concerned for the future of freedom in South Dakota. And since Dr. Moffit and other Heritage Foundation people testified to the Health and Human Services committees in January this "freedom for sale" plan is likely to be seriously considered.
Instead of stirring more socialism and government intervention into the mix (which is the key ingredient that got us into this mess), we need to look for free-market solutions that reduce costs and over-use of the system.