Monday, March 1, 2010

The Car Insurance argument for health care mandate

Over the weekend I participated in several discussions on the health care summit and other general reform topics. The one argument I heard over and over dealt with comparing the individual mandate with Minnesota's requirement of car insurance to drive a car. At first when the comparison was being made I struggled to fathom how such a comparison was being made. As the conversations wore on, I noticed that every time someone brought up the Constitutionality of the individual mandate the response from its supporters was to compare it to car insurance. Now, Minnesota law states that everyone that owns and operates a vehicle on State roads must carry liability insurance. Last time I checked, the Department of Motor Vehicles was not handing out driver licenses to anyone that wanted one. One must go through an approved Drivers Ed class, pass a written exam and pass a driving exam all before a license is given out. Granted to renew ones license all one needs to do is pay the renewal fee and answer a few questions.

Within the car insurance analogy the argument was made that requiring everyone to carry insurance keeps the costs down and spreads the risk. True it does spread risk but the original intent of requiring every Minnesota driver to carry liability car insurance is to protect the other driver. Remember that the type of insurance required is liability which will do nothing for one if they are the only party to an accident. In a good show of understanding I relented my position and agreed with the car insurance analogy. As I converted my stance, I asked the group what everyone paid for car insurance. Ironically not everyone paid the same amount or had the same type of coverage. I asked the group why. We brainstormed for a while and came to a consensus that it was determined mainly by ones driving record. Even though everyone had car insurance, it was brought up that not everyone qualifies for car insurance. A story was shared about a person that could not get insurance because of several DWI's and other items on their driving record.

To which I asked, can we make the comparison of one's driving record to one's health pre-condition. A consensus on this was not able to be reached, so I pose this to those reading the blog: Is a driving record the same as a pre-existing condition? The reason I brought this point to light was that everyone pays a different amount for their car insurance even if their coverage is the same as another. So, if a driving record can be used to rate someone up then why cannot a pre-existing condition be used in the same manner? Better yet, why cannot someone who frequents a clinic or hospital more than another pay a higher rate on their insurance? After a few more questions, a few of those that used the car insurance analogy started to re-think their position.

Is the car insurance analogy viable to mandating health care insurance? One does not need to own or drive a car in order to accomplish the basic functions of life. I have gone over the Constitution again to see where it states that Congress, Executive Branch or the Judicial Branch can mandate that Americans purchase any particular item or service and I still have not found where it is stated or implied. Granted I am not a Constitutional scholar but I do believe the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution for more than lawyers to understand. If we eliminate pre-existing conditions do we then eliminate the driving record in determining rates for car insurance? Does the Car Insurance argument hold water when comparing it to the health care mandate?