No Health Insurance? Pay Up

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I’ve raised this question before: Should the government force Americans to buy health insurance from private companies?

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus apparently thinks so. He also wants to fine Americans without health insurance up to $3,800, according to the AP:

The plan from Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana would make health insurance mandatory, just like auto coverage. It would provide tax credits to help cover the cost for people making up to three times the federal poverty level. That’s about $66,000 for a family of four, and $32,000 for an individual.

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As I’ve written before, the car insurance analogy doesn’t work. With car insurance, there’s still freedom to choose.  You choose to buy a car. If you do, you must buy insurance. But many Americans happily live their lives without an automobile and are free of the insurance requirement. Same with home insurance.

A health insurance mandate would be the first time — as far as I know — that the government required everyone (no matter what) to buy a product from a private company.

Burka has thoughts on this too.

Fining people might make sense if the reform bill includes a low-cost public plan that people can enroll in. But if we can choose from only private insurers, the idea of fines seems bizarre. Presumably many of those without health insurance won’t have it because they can’t afford it. And so we’re going to fine them hundreds (or thousands) of dollars?

The prospect of twisting people’s arms to make them buy health insurance makes me even less comfortable with the idea of a health insurance mandate.

I thought the idea of health care reform was to help people without insurance, not punish them.

Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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