Few taxpayers express rage against the government for requiring owners of motor vehicles to carry collision insurance (known in the industry as liability insurance). And I’m aware of no exceptions to this law. Given the risks and damage from a collision, the requirement sounds like common sense. Few drivers stop at collision insurance either, but prefer to purchase fuller coverage. But collision coverage is a sensible minimum.
    
So why is it that when the government proposes to require minimum health coverage that some people cry foul, and rant about excessive government intervention and government takeovers?

It is true that a collision typically involves another car, not just one’s own, which is the reason for liability against lawsuits. Still, people do run into trees and off roads all by themselves. Health care is analogous: those without health insurance—for whatever reason—do get sick and end up in emergency rooms and hospitals, seeking health care. Many of them, not having insurance to cover their bill, do not or cannot pay. That leaves hospitals holding the bag. The federal government pays hospitals some of their out-of-pocket cost (you hear about these as “reimbursements”), but not all of it. And those costs are passed on to other hospital users who do have insurance in the form of higher hospital prices. True, none of us actually sees the bill for all the “free” care given to some, but it isn’t free: taxpayers and hospital users have been paying for it all along, and will continue to unless there is reform.

Those who use medical services without paying their bill pass on the charges to the rest of us. So wouldn’t it be better for the government to require all individuals to purchase health insurance for themselves? Car owners have to buy insurance, and everyone benefits.

There’s more. Since most health insurance in our country is provided through employers, doesn’t it make sense to require all employers to provide it? Otherwise, only some do, leaving workers without a vital benefit that is available to others. This is what the House health care reform bill would do: require employers to provide coverage to workers. An exception is made for employers too small to afford full coverage. For small businesses, the bill proposes minimum payments based on the number of employees. In other words, even small businesses would pay “something” toward coverage. And as with auto insurance, anyone—individuals and employers—are free to supply further coverage. These are just minimums.

For all these reasons, I think the proposed bill is better and fairer than the current system. It requires the same minimums from everyone, while also providing assistance for those who are unable to afford health insurance. No one can simply opt out and leave their health bills to others. And we know a requirement can work: we’ve already seen it with auto insurance.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 12:53pm
Insurance is annoying.  It could be simple such that one pays one's way for medical care with there being some kind of government provided assistance if one's costs exceed an nationally agreed upon reasonable percentage of one's income.  It could be simple such that a percentage of one's pay is put into a government monitored lifetime medical savings account from which one pays one's medical expenses.  However, the answer is not for our government to nurture the insurance industry by mandating that all citizens do business with insurance companies.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 5:12pm
Thanks, Larry Graham. You are correct about it being "liability insurance" rather than collision, which is what it is often called in common parlance.
I have just tried to amend the blog post so it is more accurate. I hope the point I'm trying to make still holds, however, which is about government requiring what is for the public good, which it would do in both these cases.
Maybe the fact that I haven't driven for decades-I'm a New Yorker!-and haven't owned a car for that long either shows!
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 4:03pm
I am unaware of any state that requires collision insurance for automobiles.  I believe all states require liability insurance.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 11:09am
Really bad idea for this reason - the insurance companies skim off half the funds they receive for profits, obscene salaries and bonuses, and huge office building; why not use this money directly for health care? That means the one payer system, government run. Furthermore, the tragedy is not in those who can't pay, but in the very many who can pay some but are pushed to pay all - by having their homes and savings attached and taken. I have seen it happen and by Catholic hospitals too. These are the working people and homeowners without sufficient or any insurance; they constantly live in fear of ruin. And as far as employeers paying the insurance - the big loop hole many including hospitals including Catholic hospitals use is, "part time, no benefits" jobs. I worked many hours without any benefits or health insurance with very sick people. Do you think the hospital cared? No. They planned it that way. I saw a job for a chaplain advertised today that offers exactly this, "part time, no benefits". St. Joseph's in Phoenix. Go figure!