Perhaps the most controversial provision in America’s new health care legislation is the requirement to buy insurance or face a fine. It applies to anyone who does not have insurance through an employer, or through some other means – such as their parents’ policy or Medicare.
I see it as a bureaucratic nightmare. Most people are confused enough already without having to figure out what insurance they need – how much coverage, for example – and what company will give them the best deal. Then there’s the army of enforcers who must be assembled to find out who has what and whether they should be fined or given a government subsidy.
To avoid the appearance of Socialism, American politicians concoct the most convoluted mechanisms for delivering social programs. Take Medicare Advantage, which was introduced by George W. Bush with the support of a Republican-controlled Congress.
I stumbled into Medicare Advantage through happenstance, and it’s a very generous deal. For people on Medicare, it adds not only help in paying for prescription drugs but also a whole range of extra benefits. But when the law was passed it was publicized so poorly that only about 10 million of the 40 million people on Medicare signed up for it.
Now, I think President Obama is trying to take it away or cut it drastically (to help subsidize the uninsured). That’s probably one of the things that’s riling the Tea Party protesters (most of whom look as if they’re on Medicare).
I mention Medicare Advantage only to show how complicated it is to introduce a social program in America, where so many people have a mindless fear of the government. I can see why the government would want everyone included in the health care plan. Premiums from the young and healthy will help to subsidize the sicker and older people in the program. But I can also see why a lot of people would find it tyrannical.
Ironically, you will remember President Obama was against forcing people to buy insurance. (Hillary Clinton campaigned in favor of it during the Democratic Primary; he campaigned against it.)
But, in the spirit of bipartisanship, Obama and his allies agreed to include the provision in the bill as a gesture to Republicans when they suggested it.
I imagine he was quite taken aback when they voted against the bill, anyway.
Now that the bill is law, the Republicans are in a frenzy. Democratic politicians who voted for the bill are being subjected to a fusillade of abuse – including even death threats against them and their families. And more than a dozen GOP state attorneys general are challenging the requirement in federal court as unconstitutional.
You think the President will think twice before adopting Republican suggestions in the future?