Case for Individual Health Insurance Mandate Is a Morton's Fork, Doctor Writes

Mar 06, 2012, 09:57 ET from Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

TUCSON, Ariz., March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The expression "Morton's Fork" is named for John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 15th century, who wrote that a man who lived modestly was saving money and could afford to pay taxes, and that a man who lived extravagantly was obviously rich and could also afford to pay taxes. It thus refers to a forced choice between two undesirable alternatives.

The Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") forces individuals to buy government-approved health insurance or else pay a penalty. One proponent of the mandate, Walter Zelman, frames a question for conservatives as a Morton's Fork: "Would conservatives rather have government impose a financial requirement on people who choose not to buy healthcare, or have those who behave responsibly bear the financial burden of a few?"

G. Keith Smith, M.D., founder of Surgery Center of Oklahoma (, explains the fallacies in this argument in the spring 2012 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons,

The mandate forces people to buy a certain form of health insurance—very expensive, often unaffordable insurance, instead of paying for their medical care in some other way. And the argument assumes that people have the right to force others to pay for their medical care.

"A highly developed ability to polish and spin can make the flaws in arguments hard to see," concludes Smith, after a point-by-point refutation of Zelman's widely circulated argument, as an example of how to expose false premises and logic.

Smith has participated in congressional briefings on the free-enterprise solution to unsustainable medical costs This begins with the posting of honest prices by competing medical facilities.

The Journal is an official publication of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, ( which was founded in 1943 to defend the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.

SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)