The March 23 editorial chastising healthy young Americans for not buying health insurance for their own protection as well as for the solvency of health care reform might be convincing when presented in isolation. The truth is, though, that America spends 18.5 percent of GDP (or $2.5 trillion a year) on health care, double that of any other country, yet ranks low in the quality of care and leaves 30 million to 40 million people without insurance coverage even after implementation of reform. The mandate to buy insurance might be more reasonable if it were part of a bigger discussion involving how much Americans can afford to spend on health care, how to allocate those limited resources, what basic health care everyone should receive and what portion individuals should shoulder as a result of their own lifestyles.

The mandate comes on top of the existing obligations to fund Social Security and Medicare, under which Americans under 40 will pay in far more in taxes than they will receive in benefits. They will also face the high economic costs of climate change and rebuilding infrastructure, ignored by older Americans. At the same time, the economic collapse in 2007 and the anemic job market resulting from their elders’ actions disproportionately hurts them.

As I approach age 64 and think about a legacy, I’m ashamed of the mess we are leaving our children and grandchildren.

Dr. David G. Detert, Northfield