George Will declares (Globe, 3/27/2012) that the Obamacare individual mandate problem is simple: compelling people to “buy” insurance violates traditional contract law. If that principle is upheld, he says, then there would be no “stopping point” to Congress’ powers. OK, fair enough. But like his political allies, Will fails to point out an obvious inconsistency. The healthcare system is financially broken because Congress in 1986 forced it by extortion to provide services (through ER’s) to anyone who could not pay for them, the threat being that if it didn’t, Medicare and Medicaid fees would be denied. That law, “EMTALA“, is the reason 41 million people feel that health insurance is not a necessity.
EMTALA is just as much a violation of common law as the individual mandate, and probably more so, and yet no one (of either party) is calling for its repeal. Why is that? I submit that it is because the pols all understand that the electorate is self-indulgent. We love that America has “the best healthcare system in the world”, but we would rather not think about it costing 2 ½ times as much as it should.
The ACA is an improvement, but it is still unaffordable because of EMTALA. The only way out of the financial mess I can see is to make healthcare a tax-supported program like Medicare, the so-called “public option”, but it seems that will have to wait until the present system collapses, something it is now doing in slow motion.