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Republicans Now Against the Individual Mandate

September 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Requiring all individuals to get health insurance or pay a fine has long been considered one of the basic elements of reform that everyone in Congress could agree on. But on the first day of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care mark-up, Senate Republicans began changing their tune:

Advocates of a coverage mandate say it is needed to ensure that young, healthy people get insurance and contribute to the system. They say this will ease costs associated with an influx of less-healthy people who are expected to get coverage under the Baucus legislation.

Republicans, who are trying to slow Democratic efforts to pass a health overhaul by the end of the year, rushed to criticize the proposal.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee’s senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn’t support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. “Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not,” he said.

“This bill is a stunning assault on liberty,” said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

There has actually been some similar talk from the Left on this. If Congress isn’t going to pass a bill with a robust public option to help bring down the cost of insurance, it doesn’t make sense to require people to buy the same insurance at the same rate that they have chosen not to buy as a free market actor, some progressives argues. David Waldman made the case pretty forcefully on Daily Kos a few weeks back.

So, is there grounds for a compromise that involves a robust public option and a bill without an individual mandate? Without giving it too much thought, I’m guessing not. Making insurance cheaper is probably not enough to get young, healthy people to buy insurance voluntarily, for example. Somehow the bill has to cover demographics that are susceptible to accidents and illnesses that they couldn’t pay for on their own. That becomes a drain on the system and causes health care costs to go up for everyone, which is exactly what Congress and the President hope to address with the reform.

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  • KagroX 09/24/2009 3:47am

    I object to the use of the public power to mandate payments from individuals that can’t possibly have a public end.

    It’s the fact that those who comply with the mandate have literally no choice but to make payments — at the direction of the federal government — to a private actor that bothers me most. That’s no longer a market, for one thing. So the idea that this scheme somehow retains the benefits of the free market is ridiculous.

    But I see the necessity of a public option (or alternatively, I suppose, such close and strict regulation that private insurers are in effect nationalized) as a safety valve against the mandate becoming a system of private taxation, sanctioned by the state.

    If there are savings to be had by making the risk pool universal, but it can’t be made universal without leveraging federal authority, why should those savings be captured by the private insurers? Let the entity that created them take the savings.

  • Anonymous 09/24/2009 6:57am

    It seems that opening the availabilit to buy from multiple vendors is the only way cost can be driven down. Will also have to stop the policy of getting discount to send drugs to other countries thereby increasing the cost to the american public.

    Mandating someone buy health insurance is much too much like a dictatorial government.

    Whatever scheme the congress comes up with must be the system that the congressmen must use also. That makes it personal and brings them back to the real world.

  • mjwooten 09/27/2009 5:41am

    The enumerated powers of the federal government are spelled out clearly in the constitution. So, read the 10th Amendment. If you are going to mandate ANYTHING, leave it up to the states! This is an intrusion into this area by the federal government.

    I would like to see all federal employees take a 10% pay cut. RIGHT NOW, just like the one I had to take to keep my job. How many billions would that save?

    The Baucus bill contains more “fees” enforced by the IRS…if something costs my employer more…it is going to cost ME more…ergo…it’s a tax.

    Read through the bill. You would be appalled.

  • Anonymous 10/24/2009 9:31am

    The powers of Congress are enumerated in Article 1 Section 8. Most arguments I’ve seen say that this mandate would be authorized under the power to regulate interstate commerce, which has been so broadly interpreted that nothing seems beyond the power of Congress anymore.

    The government taxes us for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Given those precedents, I can’t see how it can’t tax us to pay for nationalized health care. I don’t like that. I think it’s overreaching and destructive of individual liberty, but I don’t think we can count on the courts to block it.

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