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October 23, 2005

No unfunded mandates!

Lynne, of the excellent blog Left in Lowell, left a comment over at the HCFA blog that I think deserves to be rebroadcast.  It sums up exactly why I think an individual mandate (a) is not going to solve the health care crisis, (b) is going to create financial hardship for a lot of people, and (c) is therefore a bad idea.  Here is Lynne's story (minor typos corrected):

All I can say is that I did not want to remain uninsured for 6 years, but we couldn't afford private insurance. So a mandate would have just increased our already huge financial burden. As independent workers, both of us had NO access to help with insurance premiums.

Recently, my husband got hired and they pay 50% of the premium - which still leaves us paying a whopping $118 per paycheck (just the HMO). Even if the so-called "mandatory" health care came with some "cheap, dirty" plans with high deductibles, I suspect it wouldn't even match the 50% that the employer is now covering (so probably more than $200-300/mo). And the health care would do us little good, as a high deductible would have killed us financially, if anything happened, anyway. Useless on all fronts, dangerous because I now cannot choose between eating, rent and health care premiums. Which was the unfortunate choice we've had to make all these years before my husband got hired.

And we're way above poverty level, so I highly doubt we'd qualify for any sort of subsidy.

That's our story...I suspect not an uncommon one.

An individual mandate is a HUGE deal, folks.  It has major practical implications of the kind outlined by Lynne.  We must insist, at the very least, that the impact of a mandate on the thousands of people in circumstances like Lynne's be carefully considered, and that practical solutions to those problems be readily available.

An individual mandate has major philosophical implications as well - frankly, I cannot think of any other instance in which government forces people to buy a private-sector product that they may not want (car insurance, again, is NOT the same, most obviously because the government does not force anyone to drive a car).  I'm no Norquistian "drown government in the bathtub" sort, but this kind of plan sets off all kinds of "Big Brother" alarm bells for me. 

Don't let Beacon Hill rush something like this through in its usual half-assed way.  Tell your legislators you want to know what they're doing, and tell them what you think of it.

Posted by David at 11:42 AM in Health Care, Massachusetts | Permalink


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The dilemma reminds me of many of my friends when their parents were filling out their FAFSA forms for getting government help for college loans and grants: Too rich to qualify, too poor to afford the whole shebang by themselves. And FAFSA college programs are (or were at least) pretty generous in allowing people in middle incomes to participate.

You're right - mandating car insurance is not the same thing. Since I drive out in public space that I do not own, a mandate is not without merit. In NH, where there isn't such a law, I had to pay an extra surcharge for "uninsured drivers" in the case I was hit by someone without insurance.

But health care is different. And I believe, ultimately, that health care is a basic human right to boot, which if of course why leaving it to the private sector (where the creation of haves and have-nots is common) is unfair and even inhumane.

Really, I had typoes in the comment? For shame. I"m usualy so carful.

Posted by: Lynne | Oct 24, 2005 5:06:11 PM

Don't forget to post about the rally tomorrow at the State House at noon.

Posted by: Abby | Oct 26, 2005 11:35:09 AM

It is unfortuante to hear you were uninsured so long and now its too expensive. Health insurance can be very crucial and although it may seem expensive it can be better than not being covered.

Posted by: California Health Insurance | Nov 8, 2005 2:32:21 PM

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