Seldom in my life have I seen such a drastic immediate harmful affect from legislation as in the
Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law was far too complicated and intimidating to cipher through early
on so here at Polyface, we decided to just hang with our Anthem policy and see what happened.
While some people enjoy combing through piles of paperwork and making sense of bureaucratic
mumbo jumbo, we Salatins tend to prefer doing something productive like moving cows and gathering
eggs. We had the insurance we wanted; it was expensive but doable and we frankly did not want to
change unless forced to. Remember that word: force–as in violent, involuntary, thug-type extortion.
We felt good when we didn’t get a termination notice like millions of others. Perhaps all this hype
about big changes and the hysteria at Fox News were overblown. Perhaps it was indeed all coming
out fine in the end. Perhaps we could continue as usual. Perhaps we could keep our plan since we
liked it, and had voluntarily chosen it, among consenting adults.
Last week we received our first 2014 premium bill. We’d been paying $1,900 per month for both
of our families. The new bill, without any notice whatsoever: $2,900 per month. In case you’re a bit
slow at the math, that’s an additional $12,000 per year, or $35,000 for 7 souls. Obviously we will have
to do something else. So now instead of keeping costs low for our customers, investing in more chickens
or better watering systems or helping launch aspiring young farmers, we must give over our money
to tyrants and elitists.
Lest anyone think this posting will turn partisan, read on. This has nothing to do with Democrats
or Republicans. While it’s true that Democratic friends tell me I should be thankful and feel privileged
that we’ve been successful enough to pay more so others can have insurance (can you imagine them
defending anything else extorted by force at the end of a gun to be given to someone else?) the Republicans
are just as culpable in this whole fiasco. They think the government should take money by violence
from one segment of the population to give it to others too–just not as much. So the difference is not
in philosophy; only in degree. Therein lies the nub.
Where is the elected official who will stand and declare that individuals are not wards of the state?
Where is the innovator who dares to suggest that societal problems may be creatively solved by something
other than more meddlesome government? Why have we allowed ourselves to be this disempowered?
And why do some believe it is ultimately fair to take by force from people who have to give to those who
While Jesus taught charity, He never suggested that the vehicle for that charity was through the
government. He didn’t say: “Give to widows by creating higher taxes so the bureaucrats can dole your
money out to the folks who need it.” No, He said to give directly, to give to neighbors and even people
far away. He never brought the government into the issue; it was a personal and cooperative, voluntary
charity. To equate a voluntary charity fundraiser or church collection plate with a state-mandated tax is
preposterous and offensive to philanthropy.
The pressing issue of our day is not how much entitlement to offer, but whether any entitlement is
either beneficial or ultimately the best way to handle disparities. Let’s back up a bit. Where did the health
care problem originate? Its roots are back in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s day, when he decided to clamp on
wage controls–meddling in private contracts. Desperate to reward and incentivize better workers, businesses
decided to begin offering health insurance as a way around the regulations.
Government meddling in the affairs of private individuals created the assumption that health care was
a basic human right the same as the right to worship, speak, or assemble. Jesus preached that I was to
help my neighbor; He did not preach that the government, or society, was to demand that I help someone
I didn’t want to. That wouldn’t be very neighborly, you see.
The next thing that occurred was medical and hospital regulations. I remember very well 35 years
ago during my short stint reporting for the Staunton Daily News Leader attending a hearing for a “Certificate
of Need” from a group of doctors who wanted to start a health care facility in Augusta County. Their project
was denied because some beds at King’s Daughter’s Hospital and Waynesboro Community Hospital were empty.
Now what possibly could have been wrong with a group of health care professionals offering an alternative
The trade-off for this heavy-handed bureaucracy, of course, was the mandate that anyone who walked
into an emergency room had to receive treatment. Nobody could be denied. I’m not sure anybody ever was
denied because hospitals–at least at that time–were as interested in helping people as they were in making
money. But this official state-mandated guarantee, and the boatloads of paperwork and litigation that ensued,
coupled with the “Certificates of Need” created a monopoly health care system.
Finally, outrageous settlements in medical malpractice suits raised the price of doctor visits to exorbitant
rates. What if a totally alternative group of health practitioners had decided to treat only members who signed
a waiver of liability? And what if doctors could practice without government licenses? In such a system, everyone
bears responsibility for making it work. Imagine an Angie’s List for the best health care facility–with NO state
oversight. Most people today, educated in state schools, can’t imagine a system functioning without meddlesome
They think this would put us back in the dark ages, a time before Angie’s List, facebook, and
tribal accountability through electronic media. Before microscopes, indoor plumbing, and sewer systems.
Have we lost so much faith in ourselves and in the power of enlightened individuals to act responsibly when
they have freedom that we must shackle ourselves with the notion that our neighbors own us? That we are
simply assets or liabilities to the state?
If the state is responsible for my health, or if I’m entitled to receive health care from the state, then I am a
ward of the state. The state therefore has an economic interest in making sure that I remain an asset and not
a liability. Remember, the state in modern times has told us to use DDT in our homes and children’s hair, to
plant genetically modified organisms, to eat hydrogenated oils, to replace butter with margarine, to feet dead
cows to cows, to drink pasteurized milk, to double our intake of carbohydrates, to meddle in the Middle East, to
meddle in Afghanistan, to give free college educations to young people from terrorist states–why would anyone
trust the state with their health? Why? The state’s track record on decision making is dismal.
Why should any of us desire to put the state in charge of our 3 trillion member internal community of
bacteria? The ultimate human right is the right to own myself. If the state owns me, then the state can determine
the boundaries of risky behavior, whether that’s how I medicate, educate, recreate, eat, invest, supplement or
care for my health. While offering entitlements like health care to people sounds kind in the first mention, a
bit of examination shows it to be enslavement of the worst order. It is ultimately demeaning to the human-ness
of the human. Choice is the ultimate freedom; without it, we are simply pawns of the state.
That is why the Republicans do NOT have the high road in this debate. They can’t find the high road because
they refuse to engage in the basic debate about whether a person is a ward of the state or not. Once you assume
that the state has the right to take anyone’s possessions, at gunpoint, and give them to another person, regardless
of circumstances, you have created an ogre out of the state. I agree with Thomas Jefferson who said that in his
experience most government harm came from too much government, not too little government. Trust me, he
would not find a home in either mainline party today.
Interestingly, when you travel in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain–anyplace with state health
care–you see private clinics everywhere. Why? Because if you really need care and you want good care, you
don’t go to the government facilities. They do indeed have a definite priority. England is planning to eliminate
nearly 20 out of 30 brain cancer clinics. Just like that. Why? The state deems it appropriate. The patients are
The unaffordable ACA is not about giving health care to the working poor. It thrives or dies on the question:
who owns me? When slavery was abolished, our country determined that one person could not own another.
That was a good thing. Today, however, we’ve traded that hard-won freedom to a tyrannous corporate ownership
and decided that if enough people decide that society should own you by pooling their votes, then that’s okay.
That’s a heinous perspective on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”