Staff opinion: Being forced to buy insurance isn't new

People are forced to pay for things they don't want to pay for all the time - it's a fact of life.

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  • | 5:38 a.m. March 28, 2012
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Opinion
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This week lawmakers examined President Barack Obama’s health care reform, which would make it mandatory for all Americans to purchase health care at a “reasonable” cost. U.S. Supreme Court Justices questioned whether it’s constitutional to force people to buy anything.

If Obama’s health care overhaul is upheld, more than 30 million Americans will be forced to purchase health care insurance from private companies or from the government. If they refuse, they’ll pay a fine. The law also forbids insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging a higher premium to people over a certain age.

But this is not the only insurance we as Americans are forced to buy. Those of us who operate vehicles must, by law, purchase motor vehicle insurance.

It can be argued that no one is forced to drive and therefore not forced to purchase insurance, but is that really a fair argument? Many of us, especially in the Orlando area, do not have access to public transportation and daily, long commutes to work have become commonplace. A 2009 National Household Travel Survey said that the average person in the U.S. drove 38 vehicle miles per day. So for some, owning and operating a personal vehicle is not a choice, but rather a necessity.

If the argument that driving is a choice persists, then it can at least be said that the reasoning behind mandatory auto insurance and mandatory health insurance is similar: If something bad happens, there’s a mechanism in place to cover the costs. Right now, if an uninsured person has to be rushed to the emergency room for surgery and later they cannot pay the bill, American taxpayers are on the hook.

Although the bill states that insurance will be available at a “reasonable” cost, many people, especially in these trying economic times, are struggling so severely that paying for health insurance is unfathomable. But then is it fair that because those people cannot pay, others must cover those costs for them? A more structured plan must be in place for those who cannot afford insurance. For those who qualify, Obama’s plan also expands the Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage for low-income citizens.

Some benefits of health care reform have already been realized even though the bill would not go into full effect until 2014. For instance, nearly 75 percent of young adults are now covered by health insurance, prescription costs have been reduced for millions of seniors nationwide, and lifetime caps on health insurance are becoming more and more a thing of the past.

America’s health care system was broken. There’s no arguing against that. There’s a plan in place to start repairing it and many people are still balking at the change. People are forced to pay for things they don’t want to pay for all the time — it’s a fact of life. What makes it worth it is that the product they receive in return is both highly beneficial to them and society as a whole.


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