Last night, in reference to the poor decision of many free-willed citizens to forego health insurance, Bill O’Reilly made the lucid argument that Americans are free to be morons. In O’Reilly’s opinion, any attempt by the government to require (or financially coerce) people to guard themselves against imminent illness or injury is outside the boundaries of what America’s founders intended.
First of all, I agree with O’Reilly that America is a great nation because we are free to be morons. Sometimes eating a pound of bacon for dinner, hitting the tanning bed for an hour, and watching some Fox News is just what I need after a long day of exercising my God-given reasoning powers. Most people would agree that no government regulation is critically necessary when it comes to such heart, skin, and brain damaging activities. However, these actions do nothing to encroach upon the freedoms of anyone else. The same cannot be said when it comes to the refusal to procure health insurance.
When the uninsured Joe Sixpack (my favorite of the Sixpack clan) shows up at an emergency room after laying down his Harley, he receives treatment. This is yet another reason America is great: we have a system in place to keep people from dying unnecessarily. But after numerous attempts to collect on Mr. Sixpack’s hospital bill go unanswered, the hospital is forced make up for his lack of payment by charging more when they provide care to the next person. The increases in care costs then nibble away at the privatized insurance companies’ billion dollar profits, and the insurance companies raise premium costs for all policy holders. Therefore, by not insuring himself, Joe Sixpack makes it more difficult for others to purchase or maintain health insurance, clearly illustrating how the actions of the uninsured infringe on everyone else.
Some are of the opinion that health insurance is a right similar to the right to vote or the right to free speech. It is not. Refusing to exercise one’s suffrage or loud mouth does not prevent others from doing so themselves. Health insurance is fundamentally different; when people fail to contribute to a system that protects them, the system is compromised and the compliant suffer. While health care and health insurance are not inalienable rights that the government must protect, the ability (i.e. freedom) for non-morons to protect themselves by maintaining their own coverage is—and that is why Joe Sixpack must pay.