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Should people be forced to buy health insurance?

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Here's what you need to know...
  • The percentage of uninsured individuals continues to rise
  • Treating uninsured individuals costs hospitals thousands of dollars each year
  • Americans are legally bound to have some type of health coverage

Forcing people to do something almost seems anti-American since this country was founded on the idea that we are allowed to make our own choices.

However, with the rising cost of healthcare is America, many people simply cannot afford it and elect to go without.

Not only is this a proposition risky for those individuals, but also for society as a whole.

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How does not having health insurance affect our society?

AdobeStock_17016854-1600x1600Uninsured Americans use the emergency room as a means of basic medical care, which is a primary cause of inflated medical costs. Similar to using a seat belt, having health insurance is no longer optional.

There are over 45 million uninsured people in the United States. The number of  people uninsured is loosely tied to the unemployment rate (since people often get health insurance through their employer).

Although unemployment rates fall with seasonal hires, those jobs usually don’t offer health insurance benefits, so even if unemployment rate decreases, the number of uninsured will not.

Can I afford health insurance?

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Not only are routine medical bills financially draining, but one major medical issue can easily bankrupt a family without insurance.

Unfortunately, with the ever-increasing cost of living, health insurance isn’t a primary concern until a medical emergency arises.

The biggest problem with forcing people to buy health insurance is that in most cases, you are forcing people to spend money they do not have.

Can you tell a family that they can’t buy food or clothing because they are legally required to buy health insurance first?

Out of the uninsured in America, a number of them are illegal immigrants whom are unable to buy health insurance. One way to avoid this problem would be for the government to mandate insurance for those who can afford it.

Although this may seem redundant, but you would be surprised at the percentage of people who can afford health insurance don’t want to spend the money to have it.

It’s dangerous proposition to give anyone the power to determine who can afford insurance and who cannot. It could be somewhat of an arbitrary decision.

How would a mandatory health insurance law be enforced?

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It appears that when and if health insurance becomes mandatory, it would fall on the IRS to enforce it. It makes sense to a certain degree, since the IRS is already privy to all the personal financial information of everyone in the United States.

By implementing a system where health insurance documentation is matched against personal information such as social security numbers and date of birth, the IRS would be able to see who is insured and who isn’t.

There is a lot of concern of whether this would work. Since the IRS does not have the resources to take on this kind of responsibility, many people are skeptical that this is even possible.

It’s estimated that they would need to add 16,500 jobs to handle the workload, and with the federal government in dire financial straits, that doesn’t seem likely.

Another worry is that the extra responsibility will lower the efficiency of an agency that is generally considered inefficient to begin with.

Another problem with the IRS enforcing mandatory health insurance is that their computers and databases are in dire need of an upgrade.  Adding more data will surely require a massive update.

In terms of actual enforcement, at the moment the IRS would not be allowed apply their normal tactics of imposing liens, seizing property or putting people in jail if they don’t health insurance.

Without these tools, all they could really do is withhold tax refunds from those who do not get insurance. Incredibly, probably this would not be enough to make people follow a mandatory insurance law.

When will mandatory health insurance go into effect?

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Mandatory health insurance was part of President Obama’s health care reform package of 2010. Assuming the law is not repealed, modified, or otherwise tinkered with, it should go into effect in 2014.

That is a bold assumption, since Republicans continue to target the bill as an unacceptable expansion of federal government that must be repealed.

Several states filed lawsuits challenging whether mandatory health insurance was constitutional and a few have won their early court decisions. The argument will clearly be ongoing for quite some time to come.

Has the United States ever had mandatory health insurance before?

In 1798, the United States, then under the direction of President John Adams, passed a bill mandating insurance for private workers on maritime vessels.

While this was a very limited group of employees to which the law was applied, proponents of mandatory health insurance feel that it is proof that the founding fathers agreed with the idea, in principle.

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