Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Individual Mandate: Finally Controversial?


The one thing about the health care debate that has surprised me the most is the lack of interest in "the individual mandate," the provision that forces millions of people to buy insurance from private companies on pain of stiff penalties. Penalties will eventually rise to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher. Presumably, if you persist in refusing to pay these penalties, you go to prison.

In the last couple of weeks, there has at last been some criticism of this provision from the left. At 10:15 in the above video you see Keith Olbermann calling for civil disobedience against this provision if the health insurance bill is passed in its present form. I don't see how a really conscientious leftist could do otherwise than disobey it. As Jim Dean of Democracy for America has said:
So, the bill doesn’t actually 'cover' 30 million more Americans — instead it makes them criminals if they don’t buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess. A public option would have provided the competition needed to drive down costs and improve coverage. ... That's why, without a public option, this bill is almost a trillion dollar taxpayer giveaway to insurance companies.
Yes, exactly. The individual mandate is a gigantic tax levy, paid not to the government but directly to corporate America. The only thing I would add would be to point out that a public option or medicare buy-in would merely have diverted some of this money to the government. It still would have been a gigantic gift to the insurance industry at the expense of the consumer.
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