I’m a Libertarian Who Supports Obamacare — Here’s Why.


President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

As a libertarian, I’m pretty big on limits to government power and highly supportive of freedom and personal privacy. However, I’m also reasonable when it comes to  laws and policies necessary for the public good, and also support the duty of government to cover the basic needs of every citizen.

By libertarian standards, the concept of any sort of mandated government purchase runs completely counter to free market ideals. However, there is no such thing as a free market in the administration of healthcare.

Many of the individuals arguing against current insurance mandates completely ignore this fact, disingenuously drawing comparisons to forced purchase of broccoli — as if the victim of a car accident could realistically choose to skip a surgery to repair his collapsed lung. “Consumers” involved in an emergency health crisis are immediately bound to the most captive of markets, a fact well-known and taken advantage of by healthcare providers.  There are repeated examples of exploited patients being charged 500% markups for items such as a box of tissues (billed as a “disposable mucus recovery device”) or $15 for a bag of ice (“thermal therapy”), and even independent consultation to help fight these outlandish charges typically costs over $100 an hour.

Furthermore, findings by the CDC indicate that uninsured adults were substantially more likely to visit emergency rooms due to lack of options compared to those on Medicaid, burdening emergency rooms with the role of primary care providers and confining treatment of the poor to crisis situations.

It is the reality of the “forced consumer” that exposes the fallacy of the most common libertarian argument against the Affordable Care Act — that it’s simply not the government’s role to assume the social responsibility of covering the personal medical expenses of those who cannot, for whatever reason, obtain such coverage on their own. Unless our morals degrade to the point of having EMTs run credit checks and allowing the poor to die in the streets, it’s inevitable that the costs incurred by the indigent will be passed on in the form of taxes or higher costs. In a crisis situation, the administration of care is not only monopolized, it’s imposed; given this reality, there is absolutely nothing “anti-capitalist” about regulatory controls to prevent providers from taking advantage of patients and insurance companies from blocking or dropping those in need. In the realm of emergency care, universal coverage isn’t so much a social responsibility as a social reality; we’d all be better off if we accept this truth for what it is and mitigate the consequences directly instead of in the broken, round-about fashion previously employed.

When it comes to the issue of preventative care and research, the benefits of an open market become much more tangible. For all the issues surrounding affordability, the American healthcare system remains one of the most innovative and dynamic in the world, and we’d be doing humanity a disservice to dissolve it into a universal structure. Once the imperfections are tweaked (being idealistic enough to think there won’t still be plenty of imperfections should qualify as a medical issue by itself) the formula put into place by Obamacare has the potential to allow us the best of both worlds when it comes to quality of care and guaranteed accessibility.

Such a responsibility is not a revolutionary idea in this country. Gideon v. Wainwright set the modern precedent that legal representation should be provided for those who are unable to obtain aid via their own resources, at taxpayers’ expense. Though the Constitution spells out the rights of the criminally accused and guarantees nothing for the sick or injured, extending such basic rights to patients is not any sort of moral stretch. There is no reason that we, as a society, should accept that an accused indigent criminal deserves professional legal coverage in the courtroom, fully paid for by the public, but the common law-abiding citizen should be completely on their own should they ever find themselves in an ambulance. It’s a sad fact that the surest way for an American to obtain full government healthcare is to land in prison, and it’s not unreasonable to demand that the same basic level of essential care the Bureau of Prisons has decided is necessary to provide to convicted murderers (annual checkups, access to necessary drugs, mental health services, etc.) be extended to the general population.

Our Founders understood the most basic and fundamental purpose of even the most limited government to be the assurance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every citizen. If universal access to preventative and necessary health care doesn’t fall under the first of the three, I’m hard pressed to think of what does.

Jacob Asbell is a native Washingtonian and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Penn State. He is currently employed in the transportation logistics field. He resides with his wife in Silver Spring, Maryland.