The Freedom to Get Sick and Go Broke

FreedomWorks, a self-declared leader in the “fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom,” wants you to burn your Obamacare draft card.

Now, there’s no such thing as an “Obamacare draft card.” But FreedomWorks has rigged one up: atop a photocopy of a 1960s style draft card appears the word “Obamacare.” You can print one out from the organization’s website.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance coverage will become effective for millions of previously uninsured Americans on Jan. 1. But Obamacare opponents regard Jan. 1 as a date that will live in infamy.

FreedomWorks believes that the law will fail if young people defy the requirement to buy insurance. So, it is encouraging its young supporters to burn their fake draft cards and opt out of insurance coverage.

Peaceful civil disobedience is a time-honored protest strategy, but there’s a difference between the Vietnam War protesters of the 1960s and 1970s and today’s Obamacare opponents. The former understood the costs of their actions. Arrest, fines and jail time were not uncommon. But for these Obamacare protestors, the costs of being uninsured are more complex.

Yes, there are fines. Next year, the uninsured will pay a tax penalty of up to 1 percent of their income. Median annual income for Kansans ages 25 to 34 is about $30,000. So, card burners can expect fines of around $300.

But what about the costs of being uninsured? Young people are generally healthy. But inevitably some will get sick, have accidents and need health care services. A broken arm can cost upwards of $10,000 after taking into account emergency room services, physician care, possible surgery, and rehabilitation.

And cancer? Chemotherapy regimens alone typically cost more than $100,000 per year.

Those who burn their Obamacare cards will be on the hook for these costs. If they can’t pay, the rest of us will get stuck with the bill. That’s why the concept of mandatory insurance coverage was called “personal responsibility” when it was proposed two decades ago by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

FreedomWorks doesn’t mention these costs. Nor have protest organizers committed to dropping their own insurance coverage.

So in their effort to exercise their right to protest a law they don’t agree with, what FreedomWorks is actually doing is offering their young followers the freedom to get sick, go broke, and impose their costs on everyone else.

I suppose they might follow the path of some Vietnam War draft resisters and flee to Canada. But then they’d find themselves stuck with an even uglier prospect: mandatory health insurance paid for by the government.

Health Reform

Health Forward Foundation
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(816) 241-7006