A CBS/New York Times poll released Monday says nearly half of America disapproves of Obamacare: 47 percent oppose it and 36 percent support it. This split comes as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments this week.
Central to the issue is the individual mandate. And at the heart of health care are individuals. So we asked them: Do you support the individual mandate? Is it constitutional? Is it fair? Is it expensive? Below is a sampling of what they wrote.
Calvin Wolf's mother's breast-cancer diagnosis and his father's discovery of type II diabetes were only possible because of their health insurance, the Texan writes. But Americans who aren't covered? They're not so lucky, he says:
"You and I need health insurance. If the Obama administration has its ways, we will be forced to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. You know what? I support it. I support the individual mandate because one's health is too important to leave to chance or to assume nothing will go wrong or that youth or luck will protect their health. Americans can be irrational optimists often. About that they should be most wary."
Tammy Lee Morris of Illinois writes that she has Medicaid. If she had to pay more out-of-pocket for insurance for her and her three children, she couldn't do it, calling it a "luxury" she can't afford:
"Forcing Americans to buy health insurance or face steep penalties as part of the individual mandate of the health care reform legislation will only serve to alienate -- and bankrupt -- Americans who are already stretched thin financially.
"The American government should focus on fixing a broken health care system by placing the financial burden upon those who pay higher taxes, health care providers and insurance companies -- not the lower to middle class who are struggling to make ends meet."
After 41 years' experience in Hawaii's health care system, Dr. Sharon A. Takiguchi has witnessed "thousands suffer under the present system and taxpayers footing the bill." She says her support remains "wholeheartedly" with mandated heath insurance:
"Seeing patients with no insurance produce high health care costs in acute illness -- and then succumb to preventable health problems -- made me question for years the structure of our health care system. The status quo can remain no longer. […]Unless someone creates another solution to our high-cost, low-quality health care, the Affordable Care Act remains a stepping-stone in the right direction."
The government overstepped its boundaries again, Brian Koenig of Missouri says, when it tried to make insurance compulsory. It's an easy decision for the court, he writes:
"Simply put, the Supreme Court's ruling should be effortless, as a quick glance at the U.S. Constitution should swiftly validate a thumbs-down vote. After all, the 10th Amendment is explicit in its language: 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'
"In other words, any veritable federal authority to justify the mandate is nil. […] Granting the federal government authority to force Americans to purchase health insurance is, quite simply, a defining characteristic of tyranny."
Here are some more perspectives, both for and against the individual mandate:
Mandates are the lesser of two evils: "Why do we provide service to those who sky-rocket the cost of health care for the rest of us? Because we don't yet live in a country where we would rather watch each other die than lend a helping hand. And I wouldn't want to live in such a country.
"I don't like mandates and would prefer a different solution. But our politicians remain unwilling to cooperate. So, the American people will are left, per usual, with partially irrational, half-baked solutions.
"Apparently, that's the best America can do for now, so it'll have to be good enough for me. Mandating that I buy insurance is bad. Forcing me to pay for you is worse. For me, it comes down to that." -- S. Alexander Cooke, Ohio
'Participation or penalty' is the wrong approach to Obamacare's individual mandate: "Does the federal government have the right -- rather, the power -- to swoop in and demand that every uninsured American has to purchase Obamacare or face a financial penalty? The undoubted answer, at least according to the Constitution, is emphatically no.
"Right or left isn't the issue. Right and wrong is the real issue. The federal government has not, and should not be allowed to tell denizens of this country, 'Buy this or else.' If the federal government's role is extended to that point, where does it end? What other area of business will the White House intrude and demand participation or penalty?" -- John Ingle
Preventative care is at the heart of individual mandate: "I've also heard a lot of 'Big Brother won't tell me what to do.' But Big Brother does just that every day. You can't drive a car without government-mandated insurance. You can't build onto your home or land without the government's permits and approval. Big deal.
"The current health care system is broken when the largest industrialized nation on the planet has less hospital beds per population than Cuba. After all, our Declaration of Independence states that 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness' is a guarantee for all citizens of the United States. So why don't we already have the health care we all need to live a healthy life?" -- Eric Brennan, Florida
Why Obamacare's individual mandate is good for America: "Does this sound like a liberal piece of policy? It may seem that way, but even Newt Gingrich was in favor of requiring individuals to buy insurance before he ever said that he was against it. Back in 2007, he argued in an op-ed piece that reforms in the health care industry would 'encourage the individual responsibility,' with the idea that it could help make the health care marketplace more competitive and therefore more affordable." -- Whitney Levon, Illinois
Individual mandates give all Americans some skin in the game: "Tying medical insurance in with employment was a mistake made on a grand scale. That said, we have to work with the template we have.
"It would have been better if health care reform was truly a reformation. If the failed model was cast aside and the United States took up a single-payer plan with coverage for all, medical costs would go down and care would improve. Of course, that couldn't happen in political climate we've had over the past few decades. We have a political system virtually held hostage by corporate interests and the failed ideology of top-down economics." -- Jeff Musall, Oregon
Health insurance requirement in Obamacare is constitutionally dangerous: "By upholding Obamacare, all health care premiums will rise; taxes will increase and the 99 percent currently crying 'foul' on the upper crust of America will see even more of their hard-earned dollars pinched by Uncle Sam.
"We cannot and should not allow the glossy, flowered vernacular of a president only interested in making history for his own sake to become the cornerstone of life- and country-altering legislation. At this point, we can only hope that the justices make the right call for our country, our future and our livelihood." -- Shauna Zamarripa, Texas
Adverse selection is at heart of health care's mandate: "I used to work in commercial property insurance where I became familiar with the term 'adverse selection.' Adverse selection refers to the tendency for those only in a high-risk situation to buy insurance. This means that premiums will have to be higher to cover all that risk.
"If there is a balance of higher-risk customers with lower-risk customers, the cost for insurance will go down. The same applies to health insurance. If the market works as it should, insurance companies should be able to lower their premiums and offer better coverage for lower costs.
"If I am able to visit a doctor regularly and maintain my health, it greatly drives down the chance that I'll have to make that trip to the emergency room because a condition has gotten out of control." -- Lisa Zadok, California
Obama right on health care reform, wrong on individual mandate: "Who exactly decides what your family can afford? Shouldn't that be a decision made by that family and not the federal government? Then again, doesn't the idea of affordable health care for all preclude the notion of free-riders? Isn't that the point? To make these services accessible to everyone?
"To me, a better plan might be to add a small new tax on everyone who is not exempt from taxes. Then, those who paid for health services get a credit toward their taxes, while those who did not pay for services do not. Medical costs are already a deductible expense, so this would not cause a major change in the existing tax system." -- Eloah James, Tennessee
Compulsory insurance is nothing new: "The individual mandate will benefit everyone: Mandatory insurance benefits insurance companies who want to get back the money they've paid to their insured customers. Businesses that operate without mandatory worker's compensation insurance can be fined in the event of an employee injury. That coverage benefits workers.
"For years, these laws operated as required coverage, and no one has complained. One thing Obamacare opponents may not have considered: If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate as 'government interference,' will it make worker's comp and compulsory auto insurance unconstitutional as well?" -- Carol Rucker, Ohio
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