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The Left’s Righteous War Against the Individual Mandate



The Morning Bell
The Heritage Foundation
December 17, 2009

Explaining why he would vote against the Senate version of Obamacare if he were a Senator, former-Democratic National Committee Charmian Howard Dean told MSNBC last night: “You’re going to be forced to buy health insurance from a company that is going to take on average of 27% of your money … and there is no choice about that. If you don’t buy that insurance you are going to get a fine.” For this heresy, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested Dean was irrational, and asked: “I would ask Dr. Dean, how better do you address those who don’t have insurance: passing a bill that will cover 30 million who don’t currently have it or killing the bill?”

Later in the day, the successor organization to Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, Democracy for America, shot back at the White House, blasting out an e-mail that reads:

What they are actually talking about is something called the “individual mandate.” That’s a section of the law that requires every single American buy health insurance or break the law and face penalties and fines. 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.

And Dean’s DfA is not alone. Markos Moulitsas, the founder of one of the largest liberal blogs on the web, wrote Tuesday:

My take is that it’s unconscionable to force people to buy a product from a private insurer that enjoys sanctioned monopoly status. It’d be like forcing everyone to attend baseball games, but instead of watching the Yankees, they were forced to watch the Kansas City Royals. Or Washington Nationals. It would effectively be a tax — and a huge one — paid directly to a private industry. Without any mechanisms to control costs, this is yet another bailout for yet another reviled industry.

And firedoglake, the progressive blog that led the campaign to run Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) out of the Democratic Party, calls an individual mandate without a public option “Unacceptable For Moral, Political, And Policy Reasons” explaining:

The health insurance Americans are forced to purchase will not be affordable. Middle class families (making 300%-400% of FPL) will only get subsidies sufficient to make the premiums for the second cheapest insurance at the low quality silver level (70% actuarial) cost 10% of their income. … The individual mandate in this bill is nothing more than government-enforced private taxation on behalf of large, for-profit corporations. It would be just one more step toward corporate serfdom.

Conservatives have been making nearly identical critiques of the individual mandate since the beginning of the debate. Of course, we differ with the left on whether the public option would solve the above problems, but both progressives and conservatives are now in complete agreement that the current Senate bill would be a health care disaster for Americans. And the American people agree. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the American people oppose Obamacare 51% to 44%. But when asked about specific provisions of health care reform, guess which aspect is the least popular: the individual mandate. A full 57% Americans told NBC News they do not want Obamacare to create “a law that requires everyone to have health insurance coverage.” With only 38% of Americans supporting it, the individual mandate is the least popular portion of the bill.

Finally let’s not forgot that it wasn’t long ago that candidate-Barack Obama was also against the individual mandate. During his February 21, 2008 debate with then-Senator Clinton, Obama said: “Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20 percent can’t afford it. In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance and they’re paying a fine.” According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Senate Obamacare bill would do the exact same thing, forcing 19 million Americans to pay $29 billion in taxes/fines and receive no health care in return. No wonder the left is yearning for candidate-Obama they had instead of the President Obama they have.


Related Content

The Baucus Individual Health Insurance Mandate: Taxing Low-Income and Moderate-Income Workers
Robert A. Book, Ph.D. & others, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 09.25.2009
The Public Health Insurance Option: Unfair Competition on a Tilting Field
John S. Hoff, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 09.25.2009
Article Howard Dean Is Right, This Is Not Health Care Reform
The Morning Bell, The Heritage Foundation, 12.16.2009
All the President's Mandates: Compulsory Health Insurance Is a Government Takeover
Michael F. Cannon, Cato Institute, Briefing Paper No. 114, 09.23.2009
Article The Health-Care Tax
Eric M. Staib, The Free Market, Vol. 27, No. 12 (December 2009)
Article The Vicious Heart of ObamaCare
Robert Tracinski, TIA Daily, 12.09.2009

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