Your Papers Please
By J.J. Jackson
August 3, 2009
Talking about exactly what the liberals in our government are going to get away with when it comes down to seizing control over the health care industry in America is difficult because one liberal says they want one thing, another wants something different and others want yet other things. However there have been some universal themes that seem to be popular enough among the left that they are almost certain to be included in any final, bad and unconstitutional plan they put forth. One of these things is the concept of mandatory coverage inasmuch that if you do not have health insurance you will be forced to buy in. You might even be fined or thrown in jail if you refuse. The details are kind of murky but some sort of punishment must accompany this sort of authoritarian demand otherwise there is no incentive to obey the commands emanating from the right hand of Congress Almighty.
The problem with this concept is that it clearly runs roughshod over several important parts of our Constitution in order to make such a scheme work. One of those concepts is that as Americans we are supposed to be secure in our "persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." But in order for the federal government to ensure that there is universal coverage and that you are not disobeying their all-knowing authority would not the bureaucrats need access to such things in order to verify your status? Of course they would. That is a no-brainer.
In order to accomplish this task they must of course make you a criminal for not carrying insurance as only once you are a suspect in a crime can the government legitimately issue warrants for the confiscation and search of your personal effects and papers. Papers, I might add, which would obviously include your proof of insurance.
While the concept of mandating that people carry insurance has always been a shaky one ever since the invention of requiring drivers to have automobile insurance, it is important to understand exactly how much more shaky the mandate of health insurance would be. You can always, so they argue, choose not to drive and thus avoid the need for car insurance. Not that that is a legitimate argument for such schemes. And I am not saying that insurance is a bad thing to have just in case you are wondering. I am merely pointing out how government requiring it is problematic to our liberties.
I freely admit that insurance is a really neat thing. I have lots of it for that reason; car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, just to name a few. You hand proof of it to someone providing a service and you pay a small fee (or possibly even nothing) and you get that service which is covered by the insurance. If you do not have insurance then you have to have cash on hand and might possibly have to enter into a negotiation over what price you can actually afford. That last point about giving a darn about the cost of something is not really a downside, although the cash on hand part can be a major pain considering the poor rate at which Americans have been saving for emergencies of late.
But still requiring by force of law that people carry insurance for anything is shaky ground on which to tread because it gives the government the ability to control your actions and search you on a whim to make sure you are compliant. Of course there are other issues too. Especially in the case of health insurance, which can be very expensive, once the government starts mandating that you must have certain coverage at a certain cost you are no longer free to enter into a contract for less coverage at a different cost. You might be young and healthy and not need a robust plan but only catastrophic insurance; however, the government will need you to pay into the system at a rate they set because they need the money from you to cover those on their plan and who tend to consume more health care resources and more expensive resources at that. If the government let you opt out the rates of those consuming resources would climb by default to cover the costs being shared among a smaller pool consuming vast amounts of resources. So as is often the case when government gets involved, many people will be paying more for less. From each according to his means after all; that's been our government's motto for years.
People who can pay out of pocket, or think that they can pay out of pocket, for any medical expense that comes their way should be free to pursue that goal. They may find out that they were wrong in their assumption but that should be their ultimate lessons to learn. Still, some people can pay out of pocket and they should be allowed to. As for the rest of us, we should be free to purchase any insurance plan we want and not be told by the government what it must cover. I do not think that I will ever need a hysterectomy so why should I have to pay for insurance that covers it?
And I certainly do not want government agents plodding through my personal effects or contacting those that I choose to do business with, scrutinizing my choices and asking for access to things that should rightfully be private because it is not rightfully in their power to know about. The other option is to have a bunch of bureaucrats running around flush with power asking everyone they run into, "Your papers please!"
Don't we fret enough about the IRS every year? Do we really want another government agency giving us another anal exam to make sure we are in compliance?
J.J. Jackson is a libertarian conservative author from Pittsburgh, PA who has been writing and promoting individual liberty since 1993 and is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. He is the Pittsburgh Conservative Examiner for Examiner.com. He is also the owner of The Right Things - Conservative T-shirts & Gifts. His weekly commentary along with exclusives not available anywhere else can be found at Liberty Reborn.