The Health Police

Imagine that an encyclopedia salesman knocks on your door with a big smile, saying, "Boy have I got a deal for you. I'm going to give you a choice between several different encyclopedia sets." No thanks, you say. But the salesman sticks his foot in the door, flips out a police badge, and says, "Sorry, but the law requires you to buy one of my encyclopedia sets; otherwise you can be subject to fines and imprisonment." Suddenly all his talk about choice sounds like a grim joke. The point of this little parable is to illustrate an aspect of the health-care debate that is often overlooked. The Clinton plan offers several options—but it also comes with a police badge in hand. By that I mean it creates a host of new crimes. For starters, everyone must join the government's plan. Insurance premiums will become in essence a tax—and refusing to pay could have the same dire consequences as refusing to pay taxes. In the future, nothing will be certain except death, taxes . . . and health premiums. The Clinton plan also creates a new crime called health-care "bribery," punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The obvious question is: Why would anyone want to bribe someone over health care? The answer is that by setting price controls on medical services, the Clinton plan will lead inevitably to rationing and waiting lines. Desperate patients will look for short cuts to life-saving services. A well-placed gift could open a slot at the head of the line. Other criminal and civic penalties created by the Clinton plan are too numerous to list. For example, a health insurer that fails to pay claims "promptly" may be fined up to $1 million. Drug companies that do not provide cost information to the government on a timely basis are subject to a $10,000 penalty for each offense. A self-insured employer who fails to report financial information on a timely basis may be fined up to $100,000. In addition to creating new crimes, the Clinton plan pulls a raft of existing crimes into federal courts. Things like fraud, theft, and embezzlement are all redefined as federal crimes—if they are related to health care. In other words, crimes normally handled by state and local authorities will be taken over by the Feds. These examples are listed in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Bradley Smith, entitled "The Health Police Are Coming." The administration likes to emphasize all the choices its plan offers. But like the parable of the encyclopedia salesman, behind the smile is the police badge—with the threat of fines and punishment. The Bible teaches that God gave the state the power of the sword. But it's a power to be used only in the service of justice. So when we consider any government-run health plan, we should ask a fundamental question: Is forcing people to buy government insurance a matter of justice? Should insurance become a matter of state coercion—backed by the power of the sword? Or is this just another power grab by the federal government?


Chuck Colson


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