Mark Hillman

Talk about personal responsibility is cheap. Legislating personal responsibility isn't. Take the movement to require everyone to purchase government-approved health insurance.

If at first this seems like a reasonable requirement necessary to reduce cost shifting by those who do not pay their own fare, then step back and think again. The damage caused by such a mandate is far greater than the problem it purports to solve.

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Passing a law won't magically make everyone insured any more than laws against speeding cause everyone to drive carefully - and shaving a few MPH off your speed is a much milder behavior modification than involuntarily spending thousands of your hard-earned dollars on government's wish list rather than your own.

Many states, including Colorado, require drivers to have automobile insurance; yet the number of uninsured drivers is estimated at 14 percent nationally and 16 percent in Colorado.

Analyzing the newest health "reform" bill by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Congressional Budget Office found that its individual purchase mandate would still leave 25 million uninsured - out of some 30 million that CBO says are currently uninsured on any given day.

From a practical standpoint, the requirement to purchase health insurance will start badly and grow even worse. That's because the choice of what kind of insurance to purchase will no longer belong to consumers but to politicians and bureaucrats, relentlessly pressured by lobbyists to add to every conceivable screening or procedure in the nanny-state's wish list to your mandatory policy.

Politicians who resist that pressure and defend your right to choose your own level of coverage will be smeared at election time by dishonest advertisements accusing them of opposing mammograms and maternity care.

Requiring health insurance to pay for preventive screenings is like mandating that auto insurance must pay for oil changes and new tires. Only in health care do we forget that insurance was designed to pay for unforeseen catastrophes, not for predictable events for which we should plan and budget.

These are the types of mandates that turn a practical, affordable policy into an unaffordable one. In Massachusetts, which implemented an individual mandate in 2007, the average family insurance policy now costs $13,788 a year - the most expensive in the nation.

But, true to form, liberals in Congress seem incapable of learning from others' mistakes.

Mark Hillman

Mark Hillman is a Colorado native, a farmer, "recovering journalist" and a former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate.