Dale Cardwell: The medicine is worse than the disease

by Dale Cardwell
Business Columnist

April 4, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently grappling with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Indications are the court will rule one of its central tenets unconstitutional. That tenet is the individual mandate. As written, the law requires every American adult to purchase health insurance. In my view, that requirement is unconstitutional. But let's start at the beginning. American healthcare costs are out of control, and so is the price of health insurance. Why? Because the richest nation in the history of the world can't come to grips with the fact that people die. A century ago, there was very little you could do for someone in the grip of a disease. You could ease their pain, thanks to morphine, but you couldn't cure their malady, and for the most part, you couldn't extend their life. Medical breakthroughs have changed the paradigm.

Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid (government-sponsored and taxpayer-funded medical assistance), millions of Americans are given the best care the world has to offer - up to the very end of their lives. One of the best results of this system is hospice care. Put simply, hospice nurses make your loved ones comfortable - meaning pain-free - in the final days of their lives. Rich or poor, the government pays for this service.

The problem is the government also pays for medical procedures that have a 2 percent chance of keeping a 90-year-old person alive for an additional six months, simply because we can't come to grips with the fact that people die. Do American taxpayers have an obligation to spend billions of dollars to keep uninsured people alive? That's the central argument the court must decide.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. That sounds like a good thing. In order to make that financially possible, the act also requires every American adult to purchase insurance, so that the gigantic pool of participation will dilute the cost to individual participants.

There lies the rub.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government cannot force individuals to engage in commerce (purchase a product) unless they want to. Strangely enough, states can, but Congress can't. The Obama administration is hoping the court will view health care delivery as an interstate commerce necessity, and agree that the feds should be able to regulate it.

As odd as this might seem, you should pray along with me that the court disagrees with the administration's argument. If the federal government can force us to buy health insurance, there's simply no limit as to what else the federal government can force us to do - in the interest of interstate commerce. If the law stands, we will no longer be a nation governed by a federal system with limited powers, but instead, a system with absolute power.

Here's the cold hard fact. The federal government could pass a health care law that encourages 100 percent participation. Lawmakers can create incentives for all of us to join a health care pool that will decrease the financial burden on individuals who need health care.

You - as an adult - don't want to join the pool? You don't get taxpayer-funded emergency health care. It's as simple as that. Of course, that would mean doctors and hospitals would have to be allowed to turn away patients who have not taken responsibility for their own well-being.

That's the true diagnosis of the patient on the table who's lying before the Supreme Court.

For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, go to www.TrustDale.com. Watch Dale Cardwell on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5; and don't miss his new consumer problem-solving radio show starting in January on Saturday afternoons at 5:00 on WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and NOW 95.5 FM.

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