Dude, who stole my coverage?

Can you tell the difference between a stalk of broccoli and an MRI?

Sure you can. You can distinguish between a medical testing machine and a vegetable.  The person struggling with the distinction, apparently, is Antonin Scalia.

In the recent court hearings on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court justice famously asked this question: If the government can order me to buy health insurance, what’s to stop it from ordering me to buy broccoli?

First, let’s pause to note the sorry spectacle of a justice hearing a landmark case glibly borrowing a riff from Fox News

Now, let’s turn to the merits of the underlying issue, on which the entire case turns: Is it government overreach to tell someone they must prepay for use of a public good? (In the first year of the law, by the way, the fine for not having health insurance would be $95. All this brouhaha over $95?  The fine goes up substantially in later years, but still …)

If Obamacare collapses under this argument, I’d suggest you prepare to be extra careful out on America’s roads, because such a ruling would undermine the premise of auto insurance.

Across the nation, states mandate that when registering a vehicle you must provide proof of insurance (or of the wealth to self-insure). By the way, if you need hospital care due to a car accident, it’s your car insurance, not medical, that kicks in first.

So, we already have in place government mandates to buy health coverage.

Every time I point this out, those who hate the health care bill tell me I’m wrong, that the two things, auto and health insurance, are totally different.

How, exactly? In each case, a vital public good – in one case, emergency response and care, in the other, hospitals – has been built at public expense. Odds are good that at some point you’re going to make use of those public goods.  (In fact, needing a hospital is more likely.)  And the cost is going to be more than you can comfortably pay out of pocket.

This is the basic principle of insurance. You pay for something while you don’t need it so that it’ll be there for you – and for others – when it is needed. Not to do so is to be a freeloader; it’s a lapse of personal responsibility.

I understand that many young people operate under the delusion that they’re immortal. Since when did indulging that fantasy become a constitutional principle?

Trying to explain this basic premise of insurance to some of Obamacare’s more furious foes feels a bit like arguing with members of the Flat Earth Society. And now at least four Supreme Court justices seem to want to join that society.

God help us.

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