Mike McGinn / February 2, 2011

ObamaCare: Charity or Theft?

In the January 24, 2011 edition of the Washington Post, Nancy Davenport-Ennis, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hampton, Virginia-based Patient Advocate Foundation lamented that “repealing health-care reform will leave millions defenseless and without medical coverage” and that “in a civilized society, it is critical that all Americans have access to health insurance.”

In the January 24, 2011 edition of the Washington Post, Nancy Davenport-Ennis, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hampton, Virginia-based Patient Advocate Foundation lamented that “repealing health-care reform will leave millions defenseless and without medical coverage” and that “in a civilized society, it is critical that all Americans have access to health insurance.”

What Ms. Davenport-Ennis seemed to miss was that all Americans already have access to health insurance, and the repeal of that governmental monstrosity we know as health-care reform will not change this fact. Again, I say all Americans already have access to health insurance. No one has said, “You can’t have health insurance because you are black, or gay, or have blue eyes, or go to a Catholic church, or are from Minnesota.” The only discriminator is cost, much the same as the only discriminator for buying a $66,000 Lexus LS11 or a $14,000 Kia Rio5 LX is cost. No one said you couldn’t buy a car. But, if you can’t afford the Lexus, or even the new Kia, you certainly do not have a right to a car paid for by some other individual.

The cost of health insurance depends on three things: what products or services you want coverage for, how much coverage you want for these products and services, and what your risk is for incurring a future cost associated to a covered item. Your risk of incurring a future cost may be associated with your job, your lifestyle choices, your family and medical history, your existing medical conditions, or many other factors. Your ability to afford that health insurance depends on your income and assets. Both of these are topics that our government should keep its nose out of.

Health insurance is not a right. Insurance of any type, be it health, home, auto, life, or otherwise is not a right. Insurance is simply a financial risk management tool, and health insurance, which first came into existence in the mid-19th century and did not see wide-spread application until the mid-20th century, is a relatively new addition to the toolbox. If a group of 100 people each individually have a 1% risk of incurring a $1000 cost, then they can “insure” themselves against this risk as a group by each voluntarily pooling a “premium” of $10. The one individual who actually experiences the cost saves $990 while the other 99 individuals are out $10.

When we include an individual with a pre-existing condition in this group, we essentially incur a 100% chance that a cost will be realized by the group because of this one individual. This is on top of the 1% risk that the other 99 individuals will also incur the cost. This means that the group must now pool $2000 to cover the total costs and that each individual’s premium payment will increase by 100% to $20.  Adding another individual with a pre-existing condition triples the costs and the premiums, and so on.

Eventually costs will increase to the point where they outweigh the perceived benefits to the individuals who volunteered to pool their money in the first place and they will elect to leave the group and perhaps form another group. The government wants to take that “freedom of association” away from us by forcing all of us to participate in an insurance group defined by them, or suffering the punishment for refusing to do so.

Health insurance, again, is not a right. It’s a financial risk management tool. Health care is also not a right. It is a service or a product provided by another individual. One individual cannot have the right to the service or product of another. To say that they do is to say that one individual has been enslaved to the other. At the end of the day the health and health care of an individual is their own responsibility. It is certainly a good and a Christian thing when a well-off individual benevolently and charitably donate from their wealth to help care for those less well-off. However, when the government forces us to do so against our will, it is at best welfare, and at worst legalized theft.

Instead of forcibly taking wealth and redistributing it, our government should focus on creating an environment that fosters and encourages charity and benevolence.

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