The democrat-controlled Virginia Senate passed the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act this week that — if passed by the Republican-controlled house — would make it illegal to force Virginians to purchase healthcare as well make it illegal to fine Virginians for not doing so. Wherever you stand on universal healthcare, this bill is an abomination to the democratic process, which the Virginia General Assembly supposedly intends to uphold. To pass this bill while President Barack Obama and his administration are retreating from their plans for healthcare reform is the ultimate display of stubbornness. Why not wait until the administration actually produces any legislation before voicing opposition to it?
Under the guise of protecting “the blessings of liberty,” this bill merely protects the profits of private health insurers and ensures that Virginia is exempt from any variety of universal healthcare. If Virginia senators actually cared about the federal government infringing on their ability to purchase private healthcare they would voice their concerns in a more hospitable way to allow Virginians the free choice to participate in a public healthcare option, if they so choose.
This bill brings front and center the elitism that is at the heart of the anti-universal healthcare movement. As well-paid legislators, the GA has nothing to lose by electing not to participate in universal healthcare. It is the average citizen who loses the ability to participate in a universal healthcare system that would most likely be cheaper than private insurance. Contrary to the opinion of the GA, universal healthcare is not intended to force citizens into a one-size-fits-all healthcare plan. The goal of universal healthcare is to allow all citizens the right to have health insurance that is not controlled by a private enterprise whose ultimate goal is profit. The only freedom the GA is protecting with this bill is the freedom of private health insurers to charge exorbitant rates while providing minimum coverage.
A government-run healthcare plan would ensure that citizens with pre-existing conditions are shown the same care as those with clean bills of health. While this may not mean much to those who can pay for their healthcare out-of-pocket, it means a great deal to those who cannot afford healthcare and whose lack of preventative care has left them with conditions deemed uncoverable by private insurers.
The principles behind a public healthcare option are the same as those behind public schools. All citizens must pay into public education because, as a democratic society, we have deemed basic education every citizen’s right and not a privilege for those who can afford it. If one is not satisfied with public education, one has the freedom to purchase a private education, just as a citizen covered by universal healthcare has the ability to purchase additional private healthcare if they choose to do so. This bill is equivalent to deeming Virginians exempt from paying the taxes that go to public education — considering how the GA treats the College of William and Mary — this may very well be their intention.
Although I have outlined some reasons for the adoption of universal healthcare, you don’t have to be a socialist to see why the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act is an assault on the democratic process. Above all, this bill is a preemptive strike on any possibility of a public health care option before any such legislation has been proposed. The Virginia Senate has demonstrated that it is unwilling to participate in an open discourse on this issue and has chosen to end the debate before it has even started.
E-mail Russ Zerbo at [email protected]