I sat through a presentation by our congressional neighborhood’s little fella in the U.S. House of Representatives the other day. Mr. DeFazio.

Much of it was political filler of “I voted for this…” “I voted against that …” “I’ve led the fight for…” “I was first to recognize…” and some bragging about successful earmarks, etcetera. The kind of wishy-washy stuff that, for reasons I don’t understand, seems to satisfy those asking the obvious but seldom-answered questions.

However, he did say one thing that peaked my curiosity and which I will be following with some interest. Talking about the mandatory insurance purchase provisions of our new national health care law, Ol’ Pete said he was about to introduce a bill to allow individuals to opt out. But in so doing, they would have to sign a pledge that they would be responsible for their own health care costs.

Now there’s an idea to set you thinking. I don’t know the details and it wouldn’t do any good to ask because I’d just be told “We’re still working on it and nothing’s final until it’s introduced.” So I won’t waste anyone’s time asking. Yet.

But I’ve been mulling the DeFazio idea over for several days. Obviously the “devil’s in the details.” A lot of details! Like making it compatible with other state and federal laws regarding health care.

Let’s start with the obvious. At what age do you put this pledge option before an individual? That’s quite important because, when I was in my 20’s, I believed I was indestructible and would live a long, healthy life. I would never be sick or in a car wreck or in an airplane falling out of the sky. Oh, it could happen to others. But I was indestructible.

So, in my 20’s, would I make a good and well-informed decision on the need for health care insurance for the next year or two? Or the rest of my life? Very doubtful. I didn’t even see the need for life insurance at that age and, if it hadn’t been for my much wiser parents paying the first installments of a little life policy, I wouldn’t have been insured at all.

Then there’s this. Say I opted out at 25 but get some terrible disease at 53. After the free ride for 28 years, as a sick middle-aged guy, can I suddenly opt in? Under our new health care law, insurance companies can’t deny insurance for pre-existing conditions. So, what about it? Is that fair to all the others who were wiser than me and who’ve paid their premiums all along? Can I get in at the last minute and save some big bucks?

Another thought. Suppose I opted out of health insurance and, say at age 41, I got smacked walking across the street. With no health insurance, do they just drag what’s left of me to the curb and folks continue on with their lives as I lie there bleeding? If 10% of the 300,000,000 of us opted out and got hit that way, our streets would be quite littered with unattended bleeding carcases.

Or this. At age 46, I have a heart attack and some friends take me to the hospital emergency room. What happens to my sickly soul when the admitting people there find I’m uninsured? By my choice 20 years earlier. Do they just set what’s left of me back out on the sidewalk?

That last scenario can’t happen now because hospitals accepting federal funds can’t turn people away. Will the DeFazio option change that, too?

Another case. Suppose I marry and have a family of four but still opt out. Is that reckless endangerment of minor children? If I don’t make insurance premium payments, how long do they spend their childhoods with no health insurance?

By now, you’ve probably thought of a couple other instances where questions arise about the DeFazio “up-or-down” health care scheme. As I said, “devils” and “details.”

I realize there are many people now who are uninsured. By choice. But under current laws, they are treated and patched up when the need arises. It’s also a fact that to make the new law financially viable, it’s the mandatory provision that carries the weight. Seems to me that would be undermined if opting out were allowed. It would also seem society would suddenly become even more financially burdened for the long run.

There are some idiots around who want to privatize Social Security. Based on the stock market volatility of the last three years, that could have left a lot of 60-something’s with nothing when needed most. At first glance, DeFazio’s option provision would seem almost as bad.

So, we’ll be looking over his small shoulder in coming weeks. He may be on to something. But I’d like a second opinion. And a third.

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