It's the second day of arguments before the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. All detractors and some proponents call this "Obama Care". It's a program passed by both Houses of Congress two years ago, designed to phase in a public-private health insurance reform estimated to cover 95 percent of all Americans in a few years. It is neither a single-payer system many nations have, not is it a total free-market approach that would treat health care like an ordinary consumer item such as personal computers, cable or satellite television access or tangerines.
The latest and most contentious part of the argument is the health insurance mandate that would require people to buy health insurance. The issue seems to have ignited a fervor on the parts of many conservatives that somehow being compelled to buy health insurance is an assault on basic liberty and is therefore unconstitutional.
It is clear from the media analysis and audio transcript of this day's argument before the High Court that many of the conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, are seemingly skeptical of a mandate. To these justices, a physician may as well be a grocer.
"Liberty" is something most people covet; conservatives especially prize the idea of living a life with as few barriers as possible. Who wants to be needy? But when it comes to health services we are not sure when neediness arises; much as many would like to stand on liberties, the rights we covet need to be tempered whenever we are in need of assistance from the larger community.
Ironically, the individual mandate idea came from the conservative Heritage Foundation and was endorsed by both Mitt Romney (who implemented it during his stewardship of a health care law as governor of Massachusetts) and Newt Gingrich. Both these men now repudiate it. It may be that the messenger now being a Democratic US President has caused them to choose fanning flames of division over common sense principles.
The practical matter is that anyone who is human and not a spirit can fall ill or get hit by a bus or assaulted from behind in the street or have a vehicular accident. A parent can have a family member or child develop a cancer or some other terrible condition. Right now anyone who comes to an emergency room with a serious condition that requires treatment has to be given medical assistance and that can be costly. Having everyone covered by health insurance would help reduce the drain on public expenditures.
To live in a nation where a family doesn't lose insurance coverage when a breadwinner is laid off or or a small business fails we need to have a health system that recognizes people are not invulnerable to disease.
You can go to a gym or walk ten miles a day and just eat apples and water and, even then, STILL get sick or hurt or have a child who contracts leukemia. Anyone might be brought unconscious and hurt to a hospital and if you don't have insurance and the bills are astronomical the tax payer sooner or later will have to pay what you can't.
S**t sometimes just happens. It's part of being human.
Right now the feeling is the individual mandate for health insurance, the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, may be in trouble in the SCOTUS and no one knows how it will be ruled upon. But we all know, deep down, that life and health is not a ordinary consumer product. It is unique. And, like it or not,all Americans, save a few very wealthy billionaires, are all subject to the national health apparatus no matter what anyone's philosophical qualms.
The individual mandate isn't perfect but it's what we have and I hope it is retained. It's not a total cure, but it's a rational and reasonable "treatment" than what has been "prescibed" by any President or session of Congress before recent times.