Democratic Senator Unveils Mandatory Health Insurance Plan

by Lesley Politi on November 14, 2008

Democratic Senator Unveils Mandatory Health Insurance Plan

The New York Times reports that Democratic senator Max Baucus will unveil his nationalized health care proposal today, and (surprise!) it would require all Americans to purchase health insurance:

 

The plan proposed by Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, would eventually require everyone to have health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford it.

Other Democrats with deep experience in health care are also drafting proposals to expand coverage and slow the growth of health costs. These lawmakers include Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representatives John D. Dingell of Michigan and Pete Stark of California.

The proposals are all broadly compatible with Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. But Mr. Baucus’s 35,000-word plan would go further than Mr. Obama’s in one respect, eventually requiring all people — not just children — to have coverage. [...]

People would have a duty to obtain coverage when affordable options were available to all through employers or through the insurance exchange. This obligation “would be enforced, possibly through the tax system,” the plan says.

 

At the second Democratic candidates’ debate in June 2007, Obama said that mandating coverage was ineffective:

 

on this issue of mandatory versus nonmandatory [coverage] going around trying to avoid buying health care coverage. And, in fact, if you look at auto insurance, in California, there’s mandatory auto insurance — 25 percent of the folks don’t have it.

 

While Hillary Clinton said she might be willing to garnish wages in order to provide universal coverage, Obama made clear at the January 31 debate with Clinton that he opposed the government’s coercing citizens into buying their own health insurance:

 

My belief is that if we make [health care] affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can’t afford it, they will buy it.

Senator Clinton has a different approach. She believes that we have to force people who don’t have health insurance to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of people who don’t get it.

I don’t see those folks. And I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you are going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it’s not affordable, then there’s going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don’t have health care fines, or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don’t think, is helping those without health insurance. That is a genuine difference.

 

Obama’s national health care plan is frightening enough as it is, but it will be interesting to see if he maintains his opposition to mandatory health insurance coverage, a position that made his plan slightly more moderate than Hillary Clinton’s.

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