There has been some debate as to whether or not universal health care is Constitutional. The courts for their part upheld the key points of Obamacare.
Our founders also didn’t protest an insurance mandate. When John Adams was president, our new nation found it was having trouble maintaining sailors for merchant vessels. So he signed, while Thomas Jefferson was president of the Senate, a mandated health coverage bill. The bill entitled “The Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen” provided for the building of government-run hospitals and mandated that merchant marines, who were private sector employees, pay a 1 percent tax on their salaries to cover the costs.
Many people consider insurance mandates and health care taxes an assault on freedom. The old system included a major assault on freedom as well. In the old system, hospitals might not receive payment for services rendered. Under federal law, hospitals are not allowed to turn away anyone seeking emergency care. A major purpose of Obamacare is to see that the hospitals actually receive payment.
Which is the greater assault on freedom: Requiring a private business to give services without payment or taxing people to pay for a service that affects the community health?
Hospitals have to pass the costs of unpaid bills onto people who can pay. All of this results in higher premiums. Higher premiums lead to more people without insurance and then yet higher medical costs.
The left argues that people aren’t really free if they must work for the government or a large corporation to have access to health care. Some on the right argue that the most liberty-minded position would be to not require hospitals to treat anyone and just let people die if there’s no one willing to pay for their care. If people truly had to live by the consequences of that philosophy, they probably wouldn’t like it very much.
So if we’re not going to just let people die, under which scenario is an individual freer: when he or she cannot afford access to regular health care or when he or she has the ability to vote on paying a tax for health care?
Let’s be clear, too; the conversation on health care is not about health insurance. Health insurance is like car insurance; it’s there in case of emergency. Health care and health insurance are two very different things.
Society has an interest in health care just like it does defense. When people have diseases that don’t get treated, we all suffer.
A 2007 study published by the American Journal of Medicine found that 62 percent of bankruptcies cite medical debt as the central cause. Not only does health care access make it easier for individuals to become self-employed, industrial leaders have stated that the cost of providing health insurance to employees is making the U.S. less competitive.
France provides an example of how health care can be cheaper, better and available to all. Presently, the U.S. spends $4,436 per person in taxes for health care. An additional $3,926 per person is spent out of pocket.
France is reported to have the best medical system in Europe. It has quality care and wait times shorter than ours. Its government covers all citizens, spending $3,130 per person with out-of-pocket expenses another $891. So France covers everyone for half of what it costs us to leave 1 in 3 Americans either uninsured or underinsured.
The few corporations that profit from this situation are the first to yell “freedom” when it comes to fixing this problem. I find that shamefully manipulative. Wanting to create a health care solution that saves taxpayer money, doesn’t use high prices to ration care and keeps this nation competitive is not communism.
Let’s learn from our neighbors and work together to find a solution.
Brandon Givens is a Hall County native and occasional columnist.