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The Left Wakes Up to the Evils of the Individual Mandate -- Finally!

Shikha Dalmia
December 17, 2009, 10:50am

Ok - am I engaging in the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc or is the left really listening to us finally? I have written column after column pointing out the perversity of the central plank on which ObamaCare is built: the individual mandate. It would force Americans to either buy health coverage or face fines or jail time. Since often the fines would be lower than the cost of coverage, thousands - perhaps millions - of Americans would simply pay them for the privilege of remaining uninsured. Or become criminals. I even coined a term for this health care approach back in 2008 when Hillary first proposed it: TonySopranoCare.

And in my latest Forbes column this Wednesday about the Medicare buy-in provision in the now-dead ReidCare bill, I asked this question of our leftist comrades. (The buy-in provision pretended to give near-seniors more options to purchase health care by opening up Medicare to the 55-64-year-old cohort):

Come 2011, when the individual mandate will kick in--if Democrats succeed--the uninsured working poor in the 55-to-64 age group would have had to fork over a whopping 50% to 70% of their income to buy into Medicare. Sen. Reid planned to help these folks with subsidies ... by 2014. But what were they supposed to live on until then? His good intentions? How could he and his comrades in good conscience believe it is right to force people to buy coverage now--under threat of fines or jail, mind you--while leaving any relief to the vagaries of politics years from now?

If Americans are dying due to lack of insurance, as Ezra Klein, the writer who called Lieberman a mass murderer, believes they are, can Klein imagine how many more would be driven to starvation, ruin and possible death if ReidCare confiscated a big chunk of their wages every year in order to achieve universal coverage? An individual mandate is bad enough. But an individual mandate that doesn't come with help attached--how can they possibly accept that?

Last night, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean went on MSNBC and urged his fellow Democrats to defeat the Senate health care bill. Why? Listen:

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.

Later in the day, the successor organization to Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, Democracy for America noted:

That [the individual mandate] section of the law 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.

Ok -- so that last part is wrong. It is not the insurance companies per se but government mandates that drove out small companies from the market leaving a few giants to rule the roost that drove us into this mess. That may be too much nuance for DOA, but -- oh! oh! -- listen to Markos Moulitsas, the founder of one of the largest liberal blogs:

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.

Amen!

Should we start sending all our netroots comrades a free subscription to Reason magazine? But the real question is that will this 11th hour awakening by the left to the dangers of this monster  -- otherwise called health care reform -- that they are creating doom it?

Fingers crossed.


Shikha Dalmia is Senior Analyst


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