The Best Argument For Obamacare

Posted by | October 18, 2012 23:22 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

On Sunday, columnist Nicholas Kristof  wrote a moving account of how a friend of his was dying because of his decision to not purchase health insurance.  Today, a day after his friend died, he writes about how many have responded by arguing that we shouldn’t have to pay for his friend’s stupidity.  He also articulately rebuts this selfish un-American argument:

First, a civilized society compensates for the human propensity to screw up. That’s why we have single-payer firefighters and police officers. That’s why we require seat belts. When someone who has been speeding gets in a car accident, the 911 operator doesn’t sneer: “You were irresponsible, so figure out your own way to the hospital” — and hang up.

To err is human, but so is to forgive. Living in a community means being interconnected in myriad ways — including by empathy. To feel undiminished by the deaths of those around us isn’t heroic Ayn Rand individualism. It’s sociopathic. Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but of civilization.

My second argument is that if you object to Obamacare because you don’t want to pay Scott’s medical bills, you’re a sucker. You’re already paying those bills. Because Scott wasn’t insured and didn’t get basic preventive care, he accumulated $550,000 in bills at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, which treated him as a charity case. We’re all paying for that.

Argue that Obamacare didn’t do enough to cut medical costs or that it gave too much to insurance companies.  But don’t argue that people dying because of a lack of health insurance is not your problem.

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Copyright 2012 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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