Baby You Can Drive My Car Insurance Analogy

Meep-meep, meep-meep, yikes!

Now that the Public Option has been redacted from healthcare reform like a Sharpie on a visor, focus is shifting to the screw-you provision “individual mandate,” which would require folks to buy health insurance or face a penalty. And while there are reasonable arguments to be made for the Mandate, one we fear we’re going to be hearing too much about is the comparison to car insurance.

States require citizens to buy car insurance, after all, so what’s the problem?

Just one: States do not require citizens to buy car insurance.

Was that unclear?


But how can that be? How can one of the major talking points of healthcare reform’s Individual Mandate be so easily undermined?

Don’t take our word for it. Ask your friends. Ask your relatives. Surely you know somebody who doesn’t have car insurance — and yet the state doesn’t hunt them down and slap them with a nasty fine for their indiscretion.

Their secret? They don’t own a car.

We know, we know — in America, no less. Yet it’s true!

And this is not only where the analogy fails, but gets downright creepy.

What gives states the authority to require car insurance is that driving itself is a state-licensed privilege, not a fundamental right. You’re perfectly free not to buy car insurance — as long as you don’t drive. Or, to be practical about it, as long as you don’t get caught.

Apply that to health insurance, and watch what happens: Purchasing insurance becomes a requirement of citizenship. Or, to go to extremes — which we will — a requirement of living. Living in turn is a state-licensed privilege. You’re perfectly free not to live, of course. But should you decide that living is right for your lifestyle, you must get permission from the state.

Which makes your local DMV the real Death Panel.

Oh, and the insurance you buy isn’t to protect your own life: It’s to protect the other damn fool from your inability to maintain control of your soul.

Which, come to think of it, may be a selling point: We’d feel a lot safer if everyone around us bought liability insurance.


From what I recall, this was Obama’s original stance during the election.

I’m afraid I’ve got to disagree on this one… at least in part. The only way you can demand that insurance companies cover everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions is to require that people carry insurance. Otherwise you’ll have people gaming the system: going without insurance until they need it, then buying coverage to cover their newly developed illnesses.

Insurance is about creating a risk pool, and it can only work if you’ve got a pool of people who need it and people who don’t paying into it. If the only people being covered are sick, then the insurer goes out of business.

The problem isn’t that we’re requiring people to buy coverage. The problem is that we’re requiring them to buy coverage from highly inefficient private insurers with huge profit margins. The problem is that there’s no public option to keep costs down. The treasury could save a bundle if we were subsidizing people’s buying into a public plan rather than private insurance.

According to the white house website there is a mechanism to keep costs down. And it’s probably better than ‘competition’. It will require the insurers to use 90% of the money they take in to cover medical costs, not profits or advertising. If they don’t keep to this they will have to issue refunds to policyholders.

We have to pay taxes. We have to pay car insurance – which is not all about paying the other guy’s damages, it’s about paying our own too. We also must buy home insurance in order to get a mortgage – can’t get a mortgage without it. The present bill would mean that my own payments would not only not go up but would decline. I’m all for that.

Besides which, if you don’t own at least one car – one to drive and one to rust in the yard out front – you’re not a real American.

@Serolf Divad:

Anyone who’s familiar with Hollywood Accounting will immediately see the problem with the “90% rule” – much like the way that the Lord of the Rings trilogy grossed $2.9 billion against expenses of $285 million but didn’t make any “profits” to pay net points against.

Similarly, the insurers will doubtless create elaborate billing and management structures that somehow gobble up all the money while letting as little as possible actually go to doctors.

I’ve been trying to make my morning calls and find that either voicemail boxes are full or the senate switchboard in DC cannot handle the volume of calls. Even Gillibrand’s mailbox is full in NYC. Lieberman’s website changed yesterday to stop giving out phone numbers. So I guess a lot of people are calling.

@al2o3cr: There are legions of accountants and lawyers working up a scheme to keep premiums increasing by another 14% per quarter forever and burying the profits. The lobbyists will have to learn to keep a straight face while nattering on about the ‘steel jackboot of marxism that is destroying the industry, robbing shareholders and draining America of its will to innovate.’

@Benedick is Danny Tanner: Tell him me and Lefty will be by to take a shit on his face next week.


Yup… that’s why the public option is so necessary.

@Serolf Divad: We’re not necessarily disagreeing here — you’re making the “reasonable arguments” I refer to.

What chafes my bucket seat is the “It’s just like states making you buy car insurance!” line, which Obama himself has dropped recently. Whatever the Individual Mandate is, it’s not that.

@al2o3cr: Not-Sully has linked to a post from a gent who moved to the Netherlands and faced their version of the Individual Mandate:

I signed up for a plan, and found my premium cost me a quarter what I’d been paying in America. That was the result of decades of constituent pressure on politicians to get health-insurance costs down.

That’s intriguing, and there’s an intuitive sense to the logic, but it’s not as convincing as having a clear competitive choice in the insurance pool.

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