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October 18, 2007

Proposal for mandatory health insurance is a joke

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants it for California, Mitt Romney instituted it last year in his home state of Massachusetts, and it's the centerpiece of Hillary Rodham Clinton's health-care plan. The individual mandate requires people to purchase health insurance much the same way they are required to purchase car insurance. On Oct. 10, former Iowa Govs. Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack proposed to a health commission formed by state legislators that they make individual mandate into Iowa law. This week, the commission will begin work on finding ways to enhance health care in our state, and the Branstad/Vilsack proposals will be on their list. Trying to thwart chronic diseases and keep overall costs low by preventing the need for substantial and expensive procedures are admirable goals. Doing so is especially critical in a state where more than 9 percent go uninsured, but forcing Iowans to purchase health insurance is neither the most proper or most effective way of achieving these objectives.

Unlike the decision to drive without auto insurance, living without health insurance is a decision that truly affects only the individual. Lost on our two former governors is that the uninsured only choose to live unprotected because they cannot afford to do otherwise. Most of these people would not ask their fellow citizens to pay for their health insurance, which is how the Massachusetts plan works. The creation of public subsidies allows lower-income individuals to have their insurance paid for by the rest of society and allows for some citizens to drop their current insurance in favor of having someone else foot the bill. The Massachusetts plan's flaws were evident less than a year after its inception, when authorities had to exempt 20 percent of the uninsured from tax penalties for noncompliance. The simple fact is that some people will disobey the mandate and choose to live without health insurance. Attempting to rid society of a problem by making it illegal doesn't always work, as speeders on Interstate 80 can attest.

Predictably, Branstad and Vilsack have assured us that ways to lower insurance costs will be developed and implemented should an individual mandate become law. This Editorial Board wonders how, after not doing so during a combined 24 years in office, the former governors will somehow produce these magical solutions in three months. If the concept of individual mandate continues to grow in popularity among states and even be implemented on a national level by our next president, it would be a further example of the destructively cozy relationship between the insurance industry and the government. Universal health care needs to be realized, soon, but forcing coverage is futile, irresponsible, and misguided.

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Posted by healthinsurance at October 18, 2007 03:17 PM