by Daniel Potter | Sep 14, 2011

Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist peppered one of the nation’s top healthcare officials with questions today over the federal healthcare overhaul. Frist spoke with Donald Berwick, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at a gathering of representatives from Nashville’s healthcare industry.

Some have argued the new healthcare law can’t legally make people buy health insurance. Frist asked whether the law would survive if the Supreme Court overturned that individual mandate.

Berwick didn’t go there, saying the overhaul hinges on everyone having insurance, since the country takes care of sick people whether they’re covered or not. He says that means uninsured people would pass on costs affecting everyone.

“The concept that a person isn’t somehow – by choosing not be insured – isn’t affecting everyone else is just wrong. When you don’t have insurance in a compassionate country that will nonetheless give you care, everything falls apart because we still are going to give the care. You just shucked onto everybody else the cost of your decision.”

Frist points out that even under the new law, millions of people in America still won’t have insurance. Still, he believes the healthcare law will survive even if the high court strikes down the individual requirement.

Challenges to the law have gotten mixed results in federal appeals courts. Ultimately the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to uphold it, potentially by next spring.