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April 12, 2010
Health insurance mandates vs. Auto liability requirements - a false analogy
A frequent argument for nationalized healthcare is the comparison to auto insurance. Obamacare advocates reason that since government requires people to purchase auto insurance government can also require people to purchase health insurance. The flaws in that argument are numerous.
Compulsory auto insurance coverage is a state issue. Each state establishes minimum bodily injury and property damage liability coverage requirements as it deems appropriate. However, liability insurance provides no benefits to the policyholder beyond the transfer of risk. The auto insurance requirement serves to protect the public from catastrophic losses the insured may cause.
While auto liability is compulsory, drivers aren't required to purchase coverage that protects personal interests. The state isn't concerned with how someone replaces their vehicle or pays personal medical expenses that result from their actions.
Antagonists may counter that banks require collision coverage. But the banks aren't government. Banks are lien holders with vested interests in the collateral. Thus borrowers are required to protect their vehicles. Once loans are repaid banks have no interest in the vehicles and the insurance requirement disappears.
Whether liability or collision, the government healthcare advocate still argues that auto insurance is government mandated. This is a half truth. States require drivers to carry liability insurance as a condition of using the public roads. However, there is no actual demand on anyone to buy auto insurance. If a person chooses not to drive a motorized vehicle on the public roadways the auto insurance requirement is inapplicable.
Federally imposed health insurance isn't comparable to a state's auto liability insurance mandate. First, the federal government is forcing us--under threat of fine or possible imprisonment--to buy personal insurance from a private company. Second, you have no viable option to avoid the federal government's imposition. Everyone will be required to carry personal health insurance. Third, congress has no legitimate authority to force free people to purchase products or services no matter the perceived good or value they may bring to the individual.
The Constitution's interstate commerce and general welfare clauses (Art. 1, Sect. 8) don't provide cover for nationalized healthcare either. In Federalist #41 James Madison declares that applying those clauses to areas beyond Congress' enumerated powers is, at best, a total misconstruction. Those powers are applicable only within the authority specifically granted to the central government.
Providing individual medical care or requiring individuals to buy insurance aren't enumerated powers. Therefore, according to the Tenth Amendment, those powers are retained by the states and the people. Via their auto insurance requirements, states have indicated that their interest lies in protecting the general public against loss incurred from an individual's negligence, not in protecting a person against their own actions. Thus health insurance and medical decisions are rights retained by the people.
No government has a vested interest in your health or health habits. Personal health is an individual responsibility with the rewards and consequences of each persons decisions borne accordingly.
What about catastrophic medical expenses? Doesn't society bear that cost for the uninsured? Yes, but only in a collectivist society. In a free society people bear their own burdens whenever possible and seek charitable assistance when necessary. Involving government inhibits individual responsibility and encourages risky behavior.
Suppose government required drivers to carry collision insurance at a government-mandated cost. The financial incentive for safe driving is reduced. While personal expense motivates responsible behavior the opposite is true when consequences are shifted to third parties.
To argue for federal healthcare mandates based on the existence of state auto liability insurance requirements is political sleight of hand. Anyone making that case is banking on public ignorance for their success.
Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 200 published articles for various newspapers, periodicals and websites. He can be reached through his website, www.therightslant.com