Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Defending the Mandate

Chris Matthews once again used car insurance requirements in defending the “individual mandate” portion of “health care reform” on Hardball yesterday. I actually have no problem with the mandate, recognizing that it is an essential component of insurance reform, but it is by no means the same thing as requiring that drivers of automobiles carry liability insurance.

The first invalidity of that comparison is that not everyone is required to carry auto insurance; it is a requirement for a permit to operate a motor vehicle. The health insurance mandate requires you to carry insurance not as a result of your choice to do anything, but merely due to your existence.

The second, and even larger invalidity is that auto insurance is not for your own benefit; or at least that is not the reason that it is required. State laws requiring auto insurance are known as “financial responsibility laws,” and they are in place to assure that if you choose to operate a motor vehicle you are in a position to be financially responsible for any adverse consequences which that decision might impose on others; to assure that your actions with that motor vehicle do not cause financial loss to others.

Lenders typically require collision/comprehensive insurance to protect them against loss, but state laws in general do not require that form of insurance.

But the “individual mandate” for health insurance is a law that requires you to purchase insurance that protects only yourself; on the face of it sort of a “nanny state” concept gone berserk. It is, however a law needed to facilitate certain regulation of insurance which is designed to have an effect which is generally beneficial to society as a whole.

There is a more generally social assurance in mandating health insurance as well. If you are injured or become sick the cost of making you well will be taken care of by your self-provided insurance, and not passed on to become a societal cost.

So the individual mandate is, in my opinion, quite defensible; but comparing it to car insurance is neither valid or necessary.


bruce said...

I really do not like the government "requiring" citizens to have insurance - if they want that so bad, implement National Health Care. Yes, I understand the rationale behind the requirement, that they need that to balance the risk pool for insurance. I still don't like it. There are still people that won't be covered whether they want to be or not.

The argument comparing auto vs heath insurance is misguided, like Jayhawk has said. But it makes for a soundbite for non analytical talking heads and viewers (not including Jayhawk, obviously).

Anonymous said...

Hmm... "car insurance mandate is mainly if you get into an accident, it covers the damage to another person or thing." What happens when someone who is uninsured and he/she gets sick and goes to the hospital? Who pays for that? Someone else maybe?!

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