In my copious spare time, I'm filling out forms for a non-tourist ("class 457") visa to Australia, for regular visits I'll be making as part of the new U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. That's a whole promising story for another time. Here's the relevance now, during Health Care Reform Showdown weekend:
In all the piles of documentation to provide the Australian authorities, two required items got my attention. One was a copy of my marriage certificate, so that my wife and I can travel together. (Hmmm, ours was written in cuneiform. Where would that be now?) And the other is: certificated proof that we both are covered by an "adequate" health insurance policy. Otherwise, they won't let you in. It's part of the principle that, of course, for shared social risk and as a bulwark against bankrupting individual surprises, everyone must be insured.
Every so often there is a reminder of how unusual, in world terms, the lack of such an assumption and system has been in the United States. In the nearly two generations since the passage of Medicare, Americans have come to take for granted that of course there will be some safety net for older people with the inevitable maladies of age. Exceptions to that are seen as scandals. On the highway, everyone understands that it's irresponsible and anti-social, along with illegal, for people to drive without insurance. What if they cripple someone? What if they plow through someone's front yard and damage their house?