Friday, November 21, 2008

Rights are not excuses

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland is willing to do whatever it takes to "induce" Oklahomans to buy insurance, according to an article in Friday's The Oklahoman.

No health insurance, no football tickets.

Oklahoma must take drastic steps to improve its dismal ranking in the number of residents who have no health insurance, state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said Thursday during her agency’s Summit on the High Cost of Health Insurance. Barring a law requiring the purchase of health insurance, which Holland concedes would be a political long shot, "inducements” that penalize those who fail to insure themselves would help, she said.

Among the possible inducements Holland proposed was forfeiture of football season tickets to University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University games, forfeiture of lottery or gaming winnings, loss of state income tax deductions or licenses to drive, hunt or fish.

"None of those are very pleasant, but there needs to be a consequence,” Holland said.
What about the consquences of evading the facts of economics?

State Rep. Kris Steele, co-chair of the House Health Care Reform Task Force, said requiring Oklahomans to purchase health insurance is not a popular stance among lawmakers.

"I believe the place to start is to create a situation within our state that people are without excuse for not having health insurance,” Steele said. "Once we get to the point where people are without excuse, then we create the incentives.”
Excuse? Wanting to make your own choices about how you live your life - is that an excuse, Rep. Steele?

Holland said the use of inducements, such as revoking in-state tuition discounts for uninsured Oklahomans, would send a message. "We have developed this culture over the years that some don’t feel like they have to pay their medical bills,” she said.
Would that culture be called the welfare state?

Judging by the comments posted with this article, any move to "induce" people to buy health insurance would not be popular here in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately there is a movement afoot to require everyone in the country to buy health insurance, according to a post at the blog of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Somebody needs to remind Commissioner Holland and Rep. Steele that living your life the way you want to live it - including deciding not to buy health insurance if you can't afford it or don't want it - is a right not an excuse.

Update - Nov 22: Commissioner Holland seems to be doing some back-pedaling since the appearance of yesterday's story in The Oklahoman, which apparently motivated "dozens" of people to call and email the state Insurance Department. According to an article in today's edition, Holland now claims that some of her statements - such as the one involving preventing the uninsured from getting OU football tickets - were meant in "jest" and that she supports public discussion of "Oklahoma's heath insurance crisis".

None of the commenters who made posts on The Oklahoman's website,, regarding this story seem to be buying it.

Update - Nov 24: Paul Hsieh has picked up on this story at the blog of FIRM: Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.


  1. In Oregon, here is the argument for compulsory state health insurance, as I hear it:

    "The state must pay for the health care of everyone who asks for it, as in emergency rooms of hospitals. Why? Because that is our moral obligation. And since we, the state, must pay for it, the beneficiaries who can afford it must be required to contribute. So we will force those who can afford health insurance, but refuse to buy it, to contribute their share--as well as the share of those who can't afford it."

    In other words, corrupt ethics, altruism, leads to corrupt politics, coercion. This is another instance of the relationship of faith (or any other form of mysticism) and force, as Ayn Rand identified in her 1960 lecture at Yale University: "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" (reprinted as Ch. 7 in Philosophy: Who Needs It).

  2. And isn't philosophy from Kant onwards the secularization of faith? That's how it strikes me - though I will admit that my understanding of the history of philosophy is limited, based mainly on reading Rand and Peikoff and a few others here & there (and yes, I did do a quick read-through of Andy Clarkson's series from the latest Objectivist Round Up.)

  3. Actually, what I should have said was "epistemology from Kant onwards is the secularization of faith". Though I think perhaps philosophy in general is the secularization of religion, especially religious morality.

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