In the recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  three of the Justices, led by Antonin Scalia, likened the mandate to purchase health insurance to being ordered to buy broccoli.

I would term this argument by the robed three a reductio ad absurdum, an argument which takes a point to its logical extremes where it becomes an absurdity.

That is how this comparison should be viewed…as absurd.

Synonyms for absurd include:

batty, campy, crazy, daffy, dippy, flaky*, fooling around, foolish, for grins, freaky, gagged up, goofy*, idiotic, illogical, inane, incongruous, irrational, jokey, joshing, laughable, loony, ludicrous, nonsensical, nutty, off the wall, preposterous, sappy*, screwy, silly, stupid, tomfool, unreasonable, wacky

Antonyms are:

certain, logical, rational, reasonable, sensible, wise


But if you want to use broccoli as an analogy, let’s examine it from this persepctive.

Broccoli is high in vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber; it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium.[7] A single serving provides more than 30 mg of Vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of Vitamin C.[8] The 3,3′-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity.[9][10] Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled.[11] Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells


Just like broccoli, the ACA is full of healthy and nutritious stuff. The medical professionals provided access to by health insurance also engage in anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer activity.

A high intake of broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.[16] Broccoli consumption has also been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease.[17] Broccoli consumption is also associated with malodorous flatulence, from metabolism of the sulfur-containing compounds it contains.


These same doctors also can lessen the risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. Farting? You’re on your own.

Broccoli florets, the leafy part, can be separated from the stems. Both parts provide equal doses of nutrition and can serve one’s preferences.

Likewise, the health care mandate to purchase insurance does not require you to buy and consume the entire broccoli.

“I would definitely say that if you listen to the court proceedings it would be easy to come away with the impression that the health care reform law was requiring people to buy Cadillac insurance, which is certainly not the case,” said Larry Levitt, head of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance. The foundation is a nonpartisan information clearinghouse.

The health care law does impose a minimum set of “essential health benefits” for most insurance plans. Those benefits have yet to be specified, but are expected to reflect what a typical small-business plan now offers, with added preventive, mental health and other services.

On the surface, the minimum benefits requirement does seem to mandate comprehensive coverage. But another provision of the law works in the opposite direction, and the two have to be weighed together.

This second provision allows insurance companies to sell policies that have widely different levels of annual deductibles and copayments. A “platinum” plan would cover 90 percent of expected health care expenses, but on the bottom tier a bronze plan only covers 60 percent. Employer plans now cover about 80 percent.

“The minimum that people will be required to buy under the health reform law is clearly a catastrophic plan,” said Levitt.

In return for taking on more financial risk, you’ll pay lower monthly premiums for a bronze plan, making it easier to budget for. You’ll be covered for the same kinds of treatments as everybody else, but your plan won’t pay the hospital bill until you’ve spent a good chunk of your own money out of pocket.

A Kaiser study estimated that the annual deductible for a bronze plan could range from $2,750 to $6,350. The deductible is the amount a policy holder must pay directly before insurance payments kick in.

A separate study by the foundation found that people buying individual health policies in the current insurance market end up paying an average of 35 percent of their medical costs out of their own pockets, in line with the 40 percent consumers with a bronze plan would face.

While the bronze plan is available to anyone, the law also provides for another level of catastrophic insurance limited to people under age 30, and expected to be even skimpier.


One of the aims of the individual mandate is to make sure those without insurance do not incur medical costs that must then be absorbed by providers, by insurers, by taxpayers, or ultimately the rest of us who have insurance.

It is presumed in these anti ACA arguments that healthy young people will see little need for health care and can afford to pay out of pocket for what care they do use. But health emergencies due to accident or discovery of a devastating disease can strike anyone at anytime.

So these alternative provisions where the insurance coverage only kicks in after a certain minimal spending level is met protects both the insured and the rest of us from economic consequences.

So please? Eat your broccoli, even if only a floret.

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  • Deke  On April 12, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    Broccoli is good sauteed in a lemon, butter, garlic sauce. Conservative have a disdain for veggies that’s what makes them so lopsided in their thinking. 🙂

  • ciejai  On April 12, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Deke, maybe it’s irregularity?

  • little_minx  On April 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Well, I’m one leftie who can’t abide broccoli! (OTOH, I’m reveling in asparagus season, and Deke’s lemon-butter-garlic sauce with a dash of white wine added to cook off would be delightful over the spears).

  • Deke  On April 12, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Sounds good.
    Might be irregularity cj.

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