Well, by now you should have heard that I wrecked my car earlier this week. I was flying solo; none of the parties were injured.
Alas, I was the striking party. It's funny, when I had that realization that there was going to be impact, it was perhaps no more than a second. But I felt like I had time to stomp on the brakes and get my hands out of the way of the steering wheel because I felt the airbag might go. (It didn't.)
After sitting there a minute, I was able to get out of the car, and approach the other person (already on her cellphone; maybe she was the entire time.) She was already hot, but the first words out of my mouth were "Are you allright?", and I could see her visibly soften.
She needed a flatbed, but I was able to gently drive nearly 40 miles home. The next day, I made an abortive attempt to drive back to Worcester, but there was some hidden damage to some radiator hoses, and I only made it about 15 miles before the car overheated and that was the end of that idea.
So now I am faced with the arduous task of locating a body shop, and getting the whole mess fixed. But fortunately for me, Massachusetts has two things that help drivers greatly....Compulsory Insurance, and "No-Fault" rules.
Much ado has been made recently about whether or not the Feds can require everyone to buy insurance. But many states already do. In this Commonwealth, I cannot register a car to drive without having a "proof of insurance" stamp on the license application. It's possible, but extremely difficult, to get plates without insurance, but you need to either steal them, or find somebody with expired plates, or an extra one, and slap it on your car and off you go unregistered. All of these things carry significant penalties if you're caught.
The No-Fault clause makes it very easy to get claims taken care of. In the old days, insurance companies would often spend weeks determining blame, and the responsible party's insurance would in turn pay for damage to both cars, and in return the responsible party would see a huge spike in premiums. With no-fault, nobody is actually to blame for any accident, and the individual policies pay for repairs to each vehicle. There is an out; if the police are involved in the case and either driver is issued a moving violation or other citation, something called 'points' are assessed to the driver, with a corresponding increase in premium.
In my case, while I was issued a written warning, I was not issued a violation, so no points will be assessed to me and my rates won't change.
Going back to that one second between realization and impact...I knew all these things and was not worried. I knew my car would eventually get fixed, and I knew I wouldn't have to pay a penny out-of-pocket to do so. All because of the compulsory insurance laws in this state.
Ah, but how does this compare to healthcare? In all honesty, I'm not sure that it does. I see my auto insurance as more akin to Ron Paul's "Catastrophic Coverage" that he recommended to the hypothetical gentleman that the debate crowd wanted to let die. A more succinct comparison might be if there was such an insurance to cover oil changes, tire rotation, routine maintenance, and the like.
Massachusetts also compels us to have medical insurance, but the rules there are so vastly different it may truly be like comparing apples and bricks. In that regard, I've been the lucky one...with the new job I can now afford vastly improved coverage over what we had through the state during the dark times, but of course now that's out-of-pocket. I can thank my lucky stars for that one. I'm old enough to remember the days where if you worked for the insurance company, you used to get it for free. FCHP doesn't do that, but the company contributions are exceedingly generous. The past few years, we've been so hard up that we had a waiver from the state that exempted us from the requirements, and in turn we had no tax penalty. Not so this year. That's a good thing, IMHO.
In any case...auto insurance and medical insurance are two different things. We can argue the merits about requiring coverage all day here (and we have!). The biggest takeaway perhaps, is the peace of mind aspect. My only concern after the accident was for any personal injury to either party; I knew we would both have insurance and the cars would get fixed. Overlooked in all the debate though, is the level of authority. The state can compel us to do things the Fed can't; there's the matter of the constitution. But then again, the Founders were very shrewd. Never mind the nebulous "commerce clause"...that bit in the Preamble about "promote the general welfare" covers an awful lot of ground.