One Question for Representative Wimmer about healthcare reform: Is it bad to require people to take free money?

This legislative session, Representative Carl Wimmer is sponsoring a bill this session to opt out of any healthcare reform bill that passes in DC.  A press release posted as a note on facebook says the health reform bills that passed in the House and the Senate are unconstitutional because, “the law amounts to an excess of Congress’s enumerated powers inasmuch as it requires every American to acquire health insurance. “

The interesting word in that sentence is “acquire” because it suggests that Wimmer is aware that most people impacted by a mandate to acquire insurance will get that insurance for free.  The healthcare reform bill in the Senate is expected to extend health insurance to 30 million Americans.  According to Families USA, the bill’s provision expanding Medicaid eligibility (covering everyone who is eligible for the program that in Utah is still known as the Food Stamp Program) could cover more than 17 million people.  

Medicaid does not have premiums so the majority of people impacted by the mandate will “acquire” health insurance without paying for it.  The only mandate they face is a mandate to fill out the application for the program.  Considering how many of the uninsured in Utah are children, mandating that parents enroll in a free program does not seem particularly creepy.  Does Representative Wimmer oppose a mandate requiring parents who are eligible for Medicaid sign their kids up for the program?  

The question with adults gets a bit more tricky.  Is it fair to require adults to participate in a federal program if they are eligible?  The answer to that question probably depends on the what the program is.  When you turn 18 you are required to register for the draft.  When you deposit money in the bank, under a certain amount, it is insured by the FDIC whether you want the insurance or not.  It is  hard to buy food items that are not at least hypothetically subject to inspection by employees of the federal government.

People without health insurance are more likely to incur healthcare bills that they cannot pay.  This leads to cost shifting to other consumers.  People without health insurance are also less likely to get treatment for infectious diseases unless the disease advances to the point that they wind up in an emergency room.  What percentage of fatalities from swine flu involve either someone who did not have insurance or someone who contracted the disease from someone without health insurance who was “toughing it out” on their own?   For these reasons, I don’t think it is creepy, or unconstitutional, to require people to enroll in a free healthcare program.  

But what about the other 13 million uninsured Americans who will be impacted by the mandate in the Senate bill?  They are being forced to spend their hard earned money on a product they may not want.  Actually, most of those people will  be required to accept cash from the federal government to help pay for their health insurance.  The Senate bill provides subsidies to help families under 300 percent of the poverty level purchase private insurance.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 19 percent of the uninsured are over 300 percent of the poverty level.  

Does Representative Wimmer really think it is a bad thing to require people to take free money to help pay for health insurance for their children and themselves?    Apparently so, since he says his bill is intended to draw Utah into a lawsuit costing millions of taxpayer dollars– as he told the Salt Lake Tribune last week, “I have no doubt whatsoever this bill will result in a lawsuit and will result in the state going to court against the federal government so we can enforce our law.”

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2 Responses

  1. Health care has become so expensive that it pains me to think of how many Americans are going to go without access to basic medical services.

  2. I normally bounce all over the web because I have the tendancy to read a lot (which isn’t always a good thing because the majority of sites just copy from each other) but I want to say that yours contains some genuine substance! Thanks for stopping the trend of just being another copycat site! 😉

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