The least-acknowledged fact in the present debate over health care is that many millions of Americans have no good reason to buy health insurance. This is especially true of single young people, above all single men. They rarely become seriously ill, and they know that if they are unlucky enough to be in an accident or contract a serious illness, they will be treated anyway. So, quite properly, they see no reason to pay for health insurance or–the same thing–place a high value on health insurance as an employment benefit.
Pizza Hut learned this a few years ago when it pioneered a program that made health insurance available to its part-time workers at remarkably advantageous rates. To the company’s surprise, few of its part-time employees–fewer than ten percent, as I recall–signed up for the plan. Even at subsidized rates, the vast majority of young, single employees had no interest in spending money on health insurance.
Thus, the crocodile tears that are shed over “the uninsured” are by no means entirely genuine. One of the basic purposes of just about anyone’s “health care plan” is to find a way to force those millions of young, single people to pay for the health care required by their elders.
Hillary Clinton confronted this issue today on ABC’s This Week, and made news with her willingness to garnish wages to force Americans into unwilling participation in her health care system:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.
The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC’s “This Week,” she said: “I think there are a number of mechanisms” that are possible, including “going after people’s wages, automatic enrollment.”
Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms.
Of course, acknowledging that a great many Americans “refuse to buy” health insurance makes a mockery of the Democrats’ constant attempts to equate a lack of health insurance with a lack of health care.
The need to force participation by people for whom health insurance is a bad investment is not unique to Hillary Clinton’s plan. Any system that tries to achieve universal health insurance will require compulsion. Mitt Romney’s web site describes his plan to make private health insurance available to everyone, but doesn’t say what he will do about those who make a rational choice not to buy insurance. I believe I’ve heard Romney say that we have to be prepared to refuse such people treatment at hospital emergency rooms, at least for non-emergencies; if I’m misquoting him, his campaign can correct me and I’ll publish an update.
There is an analogy between the compulsory aspects of the candidates’ health care proposals and Social Security. A young man or woman would be crazy to participate in the Social Security system if he or she had any choice. If anyone saved 12.4% of his earnings over a lifetime, he would not only have far more money in retirement than Social Security can provide, it would, equally important, be his money, to invest and dispose of as he sees fit. But the government needs young people’s money to support their grandparents’ retirements, so Social Security is forced upon them. The same thing, in essence, will happen with health care if any comprehensive “reform” plan is adopted.
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