Should the government be able to force you to buy health care?

One of the larger controversies of the new health care reform bill – one that is now the subject of a number of lawsuits brought on by assorted state attorney generals – is that if you do not purchase health insurance, you will be fined by the IRS. According to this rant by Jim Cafferty over at CNN, by 2014 the fine will reach $700 ($2k per household) or 2.5% of income – whichever is higher. In order to be fined, you have to be without insurance for at least three months of the year. There are exceptions for low-income people and, weirdly, people objecting on "religious grounds" (can't wait to see how that's exploited). Apparently a lot of people, Jim Cafferty obviously among them, think this infringes on personal freedom. That it's unconstitutional and unethical.

There's an elephant in the room with that argument though, one so obvious that it really shouldn't need mentioning, since it goes back to why this health care legislation was being passed in the first place: health care is never free. If you decide, on the grounds of "personal freedom", to refuse health care coverage, you are shifting the entire cost of any medical problems you may have on the rest of us. You could end up in a bad car accident, go to the ER, and spend a couple of weeks hanging on for dear life in the ICU. You might even die. The bill would be tens of thousands of dollars. And unless you are independently wealthy, without insurance to cover you the rest of us have to pick up your tab.

Do you have a right to refuse health care? When the question is phrased like that, a "yes" may seem innocuous enough. But let's phrase the question more realistically: Do you have a right to place on everyone else the entire burden of any health care costs you may incur during your life?

I am a strong believer in personal freedom. But I also realize that we do not exist in bubbles; our decisions affect the lives of those around us, and we must understand that personal freedom is a right that carries with it much responsibility toward our fellow free citizens.


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