I'm a second-year student in the Objectivist Academic Center, and the class is currently working through the difference between the metaphysically given (such as the law of gravity) and the man-made (such as traffic laws). The man-made is the result of choice, and as such is subject to praise or criticism. The metaphysically given simply is what it is, and all the whining, crying, and pleading we do will not change it. Neither will praying.

What's this got to do with health? According to the Los Angeles Times, religious Congressmen have slipped into the healthcare "reform" proposal a provision that insurers be required to pay for "religious and spiritual healthcare," including "prayer treatments" offered by Christian Scientists.

If an individual believes he can deny the metaphysically given, that by praying or paying someone else to pray for him, he can kill the cancer cells growing in his body, or heal a broken bone, that is his problem. He should be left to his own devices. He can go ahead and waste his money on "treatments" that do nothing—that can do nothing. As long as he spends his own money or money given to him voluntarily, he violates no one else's rights, and he will be the only victim of his own poor decision.

But this law would force insurers to act against their own judgment, so that some individuals can indulge their fantasies that their own wishes and prayers can change nature. Any insurer willing to examine the facts of reality—and it had better examine them, if it wants to stay in business— would eliminate coverage of such "treatments," knowing that they would never produce any value in return for the money paid for them. The "religious and spiritual healthcare" provision would force insurers to act against their rational judgment and pay for these services, and it would force those of us who know the difference between the metaphysically given and the man-made to pay for them, since insurers would have to distribute the cost of "prayer treatments" across all customers.

It doesn't seem like a big issue—after all, "prayer treatments" cost an awful lot less than MRIs. But it's an illustrative one. There is no benefit—not "prayer treatments," not in vitro fertilization, not autism therapy, not even heart transplants—that justifies the violation of the rights of insurers to offer coverage on whatever terms they choose, nor the violation of the rights of consumers to purchase the coverage that best suits their personal needs. And that's why a mandate is so evil—it turns decision-making about insurance from a voluntary exchange between insurer and insured into a dictate from bureaucrats and whatever special interest of the month is calling. That insurance mandates are evil is something all the prayer in the world won't change.

Reposted from ReasonPharm

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