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Should You Be Required to Have Medical Coverage? What Are the Pros and Cons?

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The healthcare reform debate in Washington has a central question: “Should every American be required to carry health insurance?” The pros and cons of that question were debated on the editorial page of the June 10 USA Today.

Later the same week, a talk radio caller to a syndicated program made a salient point about this very question. He stated that insurance is a pooled risk, created by individuals who combine their dollars as a hedge against a catastrophic event. He made the point we all want insurance against a catastrophic event like a heart attack, yet we don’t think we need grocery insurance. In other words, we pay every bill for our food as we buy it; this would be analagous to out-of-pocket health expenditures such as medications and doctor visits. Our grandparents, people who are now in their 70s or beyond, paid for medical care out-of-pocket until the advent of government-run care in the form of Medicare and Medicaid.

An article on mandated insurance in last week’s Pulse of Health Freedom raised a number of questions from many of our readers, and they have asked for further explanation of some of the issues. One thing should be made clear at the outset: mandated insurance is not the same thing as universal healthcare. It is mandated insurance that AAHF does not favor—that is, the requirement that every American buy a health insurance policy that has been approved by the government.
Why does AAHF oppose mandated insurance? The problem in a nutshell is that mandated medicine could easily turn into monopoly medicine. The government (either federal or state) will decide which policies qualify. We will then be required to buy one of them. This is not freedom of choice in healthcare.
It is important to recall that candidate Obama also opposed mandated health insurance. Hillary Clinton supported it, and Obama was very clear that he disagreed with Mrs. Clinton and did not support it.
If we are healthy and choose to pay our healthcare expenditures out-of-pocket, why should we be forced to get insurance coverage that we won’t use? If we must buy insurance that we do not want, where will we find the money to pay for alternative forms of healthcare? And will there be any alternative healthcare to buy? If the government makes the decision about what qualifies as allowable healthcare, this will naturally lead to monopoly, one-size-fits-all medicine. New medical ideas and normal competition between new ideas will wither.
And keep in mind also that drug and medical instrument companies will see this as a great opportunity. If the government endorses their products and bans alternative products, they will enjoy a government enforced monopoly position. Can we be sure that government will stand up to these wealthy special interests with their big campaign contributions and lobbying budgets?
Monopoly medicine in turn would lead to higher and higher costs with worse and worse health outcomes. As candidate Obama said, we can achieve a fair and equitable healthcare system without resorting to mandates.
The Amish who traditionally pay out-of-pocket for even major medical expenditures have successfully negotiated discounts equivalent to the “best price” afforded to those with private health insurance.
One of the problems is that cost shifting by the medical system has actually skewed healthcare costs, resulting in health insurance premiums far beyond the reach of working American families. If you make wise lifestyle choices daily and pay out-of-pocket for integrative healthcare that usually is not covered by current healthcare coverage, the premiums charged by health insurance carriers are an insult. We are, in fact, paying for disease care. We can’t generate enough tax revenue and cut enough Medicare reimbursements if the system continues to reward “more medicine.”

Dr. Mark Hyman, editor-in-chief of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, has met with Senators Baucus, Mikulski, Dodd, Hatch, Enzi, Snowe, and Grassley, Nancy DeParle (director of the White House Office of Health Reform), as well as HHS rep Ezekiel Emanuel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others. He has been received openly by the Obama administration and is working with Dean Ornish, MD, and others to provide an example of how integrative medicine can benefit healthcare reform goals.
Dr. Hyman’s main push is for reimbursement for integrative medicine. According to Dr. Hyman, “Reimbursement will create a lever, a domino effect. . . . If we [doctors] are paid to do lifestyle intervention, we’ll build institutes of lifestyle intervention. If we are paid to do cardiac bypass, we’ll see the creation of cardiac centers.”

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