As most of you know, the Supreme Court recently heard arguments on President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, which would be the Affordable Care Act. Even before it was enacted into law, critics have been referring it to “Obamacare,” probably to associate any negative feelings that people have with the president to the actual law itself. That particular tactic isn’t new. Back in the Clinton administration, opponents of his brand of health care reform called it “Hillarycare” because President Clinton’s wife had a significant amount of influence on developing the legislation.
The argument that was laid before the Supreme Court was the “mandate” element of the law, which states that you are required to purchase health insurance. Conservatives viewed this as government over-reach because it essentially forces people to purchase a product. The comparison used by a few of the Supreme Court justices while questioning the Solicitor General was “broccoli.”
That is not a joke. The premise put forth by the Justices was essentially “If the government can force you to buy health insurance, what’s to stop them from making you buy broccoli?”
There are many things wrong with this comparison. In the first place, it assumes that health care is just another product, when in fact it absolutely is not. But let’s pretend for a second that broccoli and health care coverage were identical things. If they were, buying broccoli would be a nightmarish and unfair process.
There would be $700 “stalk and flower” premiums that change with the whims of the people who grow the stuff. People who might need more broccoli in their diet would be placed in a “high risk” category, and would be charged five times as much for the same amount of broccoli. And someone who looked like they might have an allergy to broccoli somewhere in their family’s DNA would be rendered “too high risk,” and would be unable to purchase it at all.
The only reason health care is considered a “product” is because we are about the only western civilized country that has made medical care into a commodity. The fact that unnecessary middlemen make tons and tons of money off of it is the only thing that makes health care similar to cars, DVD players, Frisbees, orange juice or broccoli.
For one thing, you can go your entire life without ever having to eat broccoli. (It might take some doing, and some scrutinizing of every restaurant menu, but it’s possible.) Health care is the one thing is this country that everyone will use, whether they have the money to pay for it or not. Everybody has been to the doctor at one point or another in their lives. And we mean everybody. It’s impossible to find someone who hasn’t.
One of the major arguments against any kind of health care reform is that we somehow might drift into a situation where people are made to pay for someone else who isn’t working as hard, or isn’t working at all. “I work hard,” opponents say. “Why should I have to pay for the slackers and the moochers who don’t have enough sense to purchase their own coverage?” We hate to break it to those people, but you are already paying for them, regardless of whether they have insurance or not. Everyone who has an insurance policy has someone else on that policy that is out of shape, overweight, smokes a pack a day, doesn’t exercise, etc. When that person gets sick, his or her health care is paid for by your premium dollars. It should also be mentioned that you pay for people who don’t have insurance, whether you like it or not. People without insurance go to the hospital all the time. They get treated and then promptly ignore the avalanche of medical bills that get sent to them. Since the hospitals can’t collect from them, they collect from the people who actually do pay for medical care, which would be the insurance companies. They raise the prices for everything to make up the difference, which causes the insurance companies to raise their rates, which causes more and more people to be unable to afford coverage, which leads to more and more of those “moochers and freeloaders” that people who are against health care reform complain about.
The Affordable Care Act makes people buy insurance. But by increasing the number of people in the insurance market (in other words, people buying in to the system,) hospitals and insurance companies will have no excuses for jacking up the cost of everything since everything will be paid for. It should also be mentioned (and this is REALLY important to us) that insurance companies will no longer be able to engage in the soulless and abominable practices of arbitrarily refusing to pay peoples medical costs, kicking people off of their policies for having the audacity to actually use them, and refusing to cover people because they will probably need to use the insurance at some point in the future.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act on the grounds of “liberty and freedom,” then what they are offering us is the “liberty and freedom” to have our medical bills rejected arbitrarily. We are getting the “liberty and freedom” to go bankrupt due to medical costs. And we are getting the “liberty and freedom” to be unable to afford any coverage at all, which in turn gives hospitals and insurance companies the “liberty and freedom” to raise the rates for everybody.
Health care is not broccoli. It isn’t even close.
Greenberg and Bederman is an insurance law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have handled thousands of insurance legal claims with bodily injury over the last 26 years. We are currently offering legal assistance to people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area who have been injured due to the negligence or incompetence of a doctor, surgeon or other medical professional. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to medical malpractice in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C, contact Greenberg & Bederman today for a free consultation.