Alternatives to a mandate

| Senior Forum Editor

Over the past few days, the Supreme Court has been hearing arguments in favor of and against the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare). Reading into the court’s opinion, and the direction it will swing when it releases its decision in June, is nearly impossible. The main debate has been around the individual mandate, which requires that Americans buy health insurance or face a financial penalty. But if that mandate is struck down, what alternatives do we have?

The United States is at a crossroads. Our debt is exploding, and our population is graying. We can’t afford to continue paying for all the things that we have been buying over the past few decades. Health care will continue to become more and more expensive as our population ages. If you look at the deficit projections over the next 50 years, the biggest cause for alarm is the huge increase in the cost of government-run healthcare programs.

The individual mandate is the best hope we have for making sure that every person enters the insurance pool, reducing costs. If it is struck down, what options do we have to reduce health care costs? We can’t hope to fight against massive demographic trends, and until the baby boomers die off, we will have to pay for all of their health care.

As I see it, we have two options. We can force everyone to pay for health insurance, hopefully combating the giant increase in costs, maybe helping us reduce our debt and making the country healthier on the whole.

Or, we can give up entirely, and stop having government-run health care, forcing everyone to pay their own way, and care for their loved ones on their own. This isn’t a solution in my mind, because I can’t accept the idea that there will be hardworking families who, through no fault of their own, will be unable to afford insurance or medical procedures. I don’t want to accept a situation where I will not be able to care for my mother because I can’t afford it. I don’t think anyone should have to make the decision between the current generation and the previous one.

Giving up won’t reduce costs; it will maintain the status quo, keeping healthy Americans out of the insurance pool and increasing everyone’s healthcare prices. The only difference is that the government won’t be paying for it anymore.

Is the individual mandate a reduction of individual liberties? Yes, it is. But so is not being able to cry “fire” in a crowded theater, and so is not being able to choose just how much wheat your family can grow on the family plot. So is paying taxes, and so are plenty of things I can’t mention. But we accept the reduction in liberties because that is what it takes to run a country sometimes, for 300 million people to coexist under one law.

I’m not in favor of the individual mandate because I favor a reduction in civil liberties; I’m in favor of it because I don’t see what other solution we have. If there were another option out there that I seriously believed could work, that I seriously believed could reduce healthcare costs without forcing everyone to buy insurance, I would be on that bandwagon in an instant.

But there isn’t. There hasn’t been. Until that solution is created, I’m going to be fighting for the individual mandate every step of the way, because that is what is required to keep the country going.

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