President-elect Obama has his work cut out for him. A recent poll from Consumer Watchdog suggests that the majority of Americans are opposed to any federal proposals that would mandate that each citizen demonstrate proof of health insurance. Lack of mandated coverage would then result in tax penalties or other fines.
Frankly, this finding is outrageous, but all too illustrative of a "gimme something for nothing" tendency we see in this country. Currently, about 16% of our entire GDP is spent on health care. That's a lot of dough. Opting out of health insurance places an enormous burden on those who play by the rules. It's a violation of the social contract. It's certainly unethical and one could make an argument that there is something almost criminal about such a choice. Isn't it a form of stealing? People didn't blink an eye when laws were passed ten years ago mandating car insurance. It's easy and not all that expensive. Shop online. Choose a cheap collision-only plan, if that's all you can afford. But when it comes to insuring our health; how dare you force me to buy coverage? I'm not sick! I haven't been to a doctor in years!
Obviously, I'm glossing over pertinent issues such as the cost of purchasing individual health insurance independently of your employer. And the problem of insuring unhealthy people. And the lack of choice individuals have if they decide to strike out on their own (as opposed to the car insurance example where you can browse Progressive, GEICO, State Farm etc online until you find the best deal). But the results from the (admittedly a limited sample) poll are disturbing.
If we can't be more self sufficient and act in a manner that is most conducive to the benefit of the greater whole, we just give more ammunition to proponents of single payor, federally directed, monolithic "National Healthcare" plans. You see, they argue, Americans can't be trusted to do the right thing. Unless we place all the power in the hands of a giant federal bureaucracy we will continue to have 50 million uninsured and exponentially rising health care costs! With nationalized coverage, there will be no need for "mandates"! Everything will be paid for. By wealthier Americans! No worries!
Turning our health care system in a giant version of the VA or a County Hospital with physician remuneration via a hypertrophied Medicare/Medicaid is surely not the corrective antidote. Individual choice still matters. Foisting the responsibility onto our populace is not necessarily a bad thing. There have to be consequences for those who choose not to fulfill that repsonsibility. Once health insurance is mandated, we can manipulate things to make some form of coverage available to all Americans. But it first has to be ingrained in the societal conscience that going through life (irrespective of how 'healthy' you are) without health insurance is unacceptable....