Should the uninsured be required to purchase health insurance?President Obama managed to pass his healthcare reform bill, which, by 2014, will require the uninsured to purchase insurance (with the...

Should the uninsured be required to purchase health insurance?

President Obama managed to pass his healthcare reform bill, which, by 2014, will require the uninsured to purchase insurance (with the help of subsidies available to those in lower income brackets) or be fined. The Supreme Court just upheld this bill, after vehement challenges from Republican opposition who charged that the government is over-stepping its bounds by requiring people to buy insurance.

Currently, people without insurance frequently use emergency rooms for all kinds of care, both urgent and mundane. These cases put a great strain on the system, especially when many of the patients cannot pay for their care at all. Should the uninsured be required to purchase insurance?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely yes!  We all pay for those who are uninsured in the long run, through higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and higher hospital charges.  And even worse, we spend far more money than we need to because people without health insurance cannot afford to seek preventive care that would keep them out of the emergency room in the first place. 

We require everyone (with a few exceptions) to pay into Social Security and Medicare, so there is ample precedent for making people pay, whether this is done as a "tax" or justified under the Commerce Clause.  The system will not be nearly as strained if a large number of healthy people must pay into it.  Sooner or later, we all need medical care, so why not plan ahead for everyone? 

It is my own opinion, though, that this means of providing for all is a poor second best to a purely nationalized health insurance scheme, which could be run as Social Security and Medicare are run presently.  The idea that market forces will keep insurance affordable and available for everyone is patently erroneous.  Sooner or later, these market forces will leave all of us back where we started, unable to afford health insurance.  This is a for-profit business today, and market forces maximize profits, not health care availability.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to lean to a bit more controversial position on this matter.  I believe health insurance should be abolished.  I know of several doctors who hate the profession due to the incredible hassle and expense involved with insurance companies.  I have had some recent minor medical procedures, and I am amazed by what the doctor charges.  A few weeks later the insurance company says what it will pay, and the bill is adjusted.  Medical billing is one of the greatest mysteries of our society.

In speaking with a few acquaintances in the medical field they are convinced that health care costs would decrease dramatically if people just had to pay for medical care like any other good or service.  Doctors would charge less, especially if legislation was passed to limit medical liability.  I would want there to be some form of government help for those unable to pay for their medical needs, but the insurance companies are a giant middle man that could be eliminated.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To counter the last two posts, one of my best friends in college had dual American/ Canadian citizenship.  His father was a doctor and they moved to America when he was in high school because his father was fed up with the bureaucracy of the Canadian health care system.  The final insult to them was that fact that his brother had torn his ACL and was going to have to wait almost eighteen months to have a surgery to repair the torn ligament. 

He was a high school athlete as a sophomore, and waiting that long would have ended his athletic career and made a full recovery almost impossible.  Since he was young and that was not a life threatening condition, he was put at the "back of the line" for health care.  While not life threatening, it was certainly life altering.  I am certainly not an expert on the Canadian system, but listening to the stories of my friend and his father make me highly skeptical of adopting their model.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that there should be such a requirement.  To me, a good analogy is car insurance.  All states require that drivers be insured if they are to drive.  This can be seen as just as much of a government infringement on our rights (though it is imposed by states and not by the federal government).  However, we tend to accept it.  The same could be true of health insurance.  People who don't have health insurance can harm the rest of us economically just as much as uninsured drivers do.  Therefore, I would support the idea that everyone be required to get insurance, even though I might prefer more private competition among insurance companies to the "Obamacare" style of government mandates.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with litteacher that the best option in health care is a wholly government run system like the one in the UK (ever see "Doc Martin"? On Netflix) and the similar one in Canada. To my mind, health care is not an option. To my mind, there ought not be levels of care: one for those who have enough wealth to pay for choice doctors versus one for those who scrape by hand-to-mouth, a level which usually excludes health care altogether. However, since that is as yet not an option for the land of the free, I do favor the alternative of purchasable health care with some government subsidies for low income individuals. My greatest concern about its provisions is whether it too will incorporate a "split-level" care dichotomy.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A nice political conundrum. I can't decide if I like this part of Obamacare or not. I see the logic behind it, but I don't like governmental control it creates. I really haven't been able to make up my mind. Since healthcare is such a mess in this country now, this law is not something I feel the need to rail against. At least it's something.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
We would better off with a state health care system like Canada. I know if the post office and DMV are any indication, it sounds like a terrible idea. However, right now we are at the mercy of a behemoth managed care system that is continually eating away at our budgets.