The morality of the uninsured

There's been a lot of divisiveness with respect to the new health care law. There's finally been a state, that for now, has found part of the law unconstitutional. Now other states have already ruled in that the exact same clause to be within the constitution, but it was inevitable that the US Supreme Court as going to have to rule on it anyway.

The clause that those against the new health care law have zeroed in on is the one that mandates everybody carry minimum health insurance or be fined. If they can demonstrate financial hardship, then they get minimum coverage on the government dole from our tax dollars. The argument is that the government is making you buy a service against your will, violating your constitutional rights.

Now since I'm not a constitutional scholar, don't have an advanced degree relating to the US Constitution at all, and even though my layman understanding of the US Constitution may be educated, it's just my opinion rather than fact when I use the US Constitution to support my political views.

There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue, and seeing as I'm biased as hell concerning the issue, I may be disqualified from making an argument without emotion about the legality of the law. Plus, as I said, I lack the academic credentials to argue constitutional law.

So, like most laymen with a bullshit opinion, I am forced to argue issues I'm qualified to argue: ethics.

My question is: is it immoral to choose not to insure yourself?

Now I'll say up front, that I had a period of my life where I didn't carry insurance on myself. I took a break from college to work for a few years. From 19 until 21, I had zero coverage. I was on narrow margins. My job didn't offer me insurance during that period. Plus, at that age, I wasn't concerned about large insurance expenses.

My proposal now is, that during that period, I was potentially a parasite on society, and honestly, not being a good American.

In America, we have a long history of helping each other out. Most Americans find the idea of other Americans starving to death or dying from lack of medical care disturbing. As a result, emergency rooms can't deny treatment to patients because of their lack of ability to pay. If, during that almost three year period I was uninsured, I was seriously injured, I would have received critical care in any hospital's ER. The average cost of an ER visit according to the MEPS (the US medical expenditure panel survey) was over $1,000 in 2007. Intensive care multiplies that with critical care days costing around $2,500/day. Emergency surgery costs ten of thousands just for the procedure. Without insurance, you guys would've picked up that bill for me.

Follow up surgeries, physical or occupational therapy, or reconstructive surgery can cost more than the original bill. But without insurance, I probably wouldn't have gotten any follow up surgeries, physical or occupational therapy, or reconstructive surgery. I'd have sucked tons of money off of the government teat and still been a disfigured cripple.

Now if I'd had cable television and a cell phone, but didn't carry insurance for myself, would that be immoral? If I knew that I wouldn't be able to be financially responsible for catastrophic health care expenses, but chose to have cable and a cell phone instead of being responsible for those potential expenses, am I immoral?

The morality issue could be removed a couple ways. Either we could make something that should be common sense mandatory. Or we could not provide catastrophic health care to the uninsured. Seeing somebody bleed to death in an ER parking lot would probably change the priority of cable and cell phone with respect to health care coverage.

With the current law, if you didn't have things like cell phone and cable, but still couldn't afford insurance, you'd get it on the government dole.  The rational for this being that the expense of giving you insurance would be less than the expense of your potential ER visits. If you could keep one baby out of the neonatal intensive care unit by giving away free insurance, you could afford to give away a lot of free insurance with the savings. But I'm getting off on a tangent here.

The question before you is about the morality of choosing not to be insured. I hear a chorus of people bitching about whether or not it's correct that the government can tell us to buy insurance. I don't hear much debate about whether or not it's correct that people not insure themselves.

Uploaded 12/30/2010
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