Healthcare & You: Will the Court make us eat broccoli?, that oft-maligned vegetable, became the metaphor du jour in the U.S. Supreme Court hearings this week about the Affordable Care Act.
If the government can force you to buy health insurance, asked conservative judges, could it also force you to buy broccoli? Both are good for you, though you might not buy either one unless forced to. If the high court doesn’t reject the individual mandate, it may end up being an accessory to mandatory broccoli purchases.

The broccoli argument has attracted lots of commentary, but I think the most insightful is from Ezekiel Emanuel, a medical doctor whose brother is the mayor of Chicago. Here are a few excerpts from his blog on Reuters:

 “At the supermarket, you cannot get the person behind you to pay for your broccoli. If you don’t pay for broccoli, you don’t get it. Unless you steal the broccoli, you are not influencing the market by not buying it. And unlike healthcare, there is no cost-shifting in the broccoli market. If you don’t buy any broccoli, the price of broccoli for me is the same. Indeed you might lower my price, because demand for the product is lower.

 “Unlike broccoli, when some people don’t participate in the health insurance market—50 million people in 2009—there are direct consequences for the insured who are participating. The costs of caring for the uninsured are shoved onto the rest of us through higher insurance premiums or taxes that hospitals, insurers and doctors must charge to recoup the costs of uncompensated care.

If polls determined Supreme Court decisions, there would be little to fear: a majority of voters thinks the Supreme Court won’t make us buy health insurance (or, by implication, broccoli). Fifty-five percent predict that the high court will overturn the healthcare law, according to a poll this week by Rasmussen Reports.

Just catching up with us, this week? Care to jump back to Monday and look over all five daily updates? (You’ll find some intriguing links to other related websites throughout the week.)


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Is the broccoli argument helpful?

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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