Fines and taxes abound as health care debate resumes

Posted on September 8, 2009


The health care debate will begin again in earnest this week with the President making a prime-time speech to a joint session of Congress on the subject. In the meantime, as a public option becomes increasingly less likely and compromises are hammered out in its stead, we continue to see methods of raising revenue for the expensive bill that may still prove unpalatable to the American public.

To begin with, we have the proposal by Sen. Max Baucus, which eliminates the public option in favor of “co-ops,” which are still too nebulous a concept to be grasped by voters, and if they’re heavily financed and controlled by the federal government, they won’t be much of an improvement on the public option. This proposal by Baucus would mandate coverage and fine those who didn’t comply – starting at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families, and could go up to $3,800 for some high-income families. So much for no individual mandate – I thought this bill was supposed to make health care more affordable, not penalize the ones for whom the bill was in theory designed.

In addition, Baucus’ plan is partially paid for taxes on health insurance companies that provide high-level plans, or so-called “Cadillac” plans. The goal is to prevent employers from offering such generous plans, which, by the way, violates Obama’s often-stated pledge of “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” Under this funding measure, people who have insurance that pays for more are penalized because they have it too good, and need to be brought down to a level of insurance that’s more equitable to the rest of us.

And finally, we have the President himself,  in an interview published in Men’s Health magazine yesterday, saying that a tax on soda and sugary drinks “is an idea we should be exploring.” I talked about this back in May when the idea was first floated. This is social engineering through taxation, and one of the worst examples of a nanny state we’ve seen yet. The day we have the government dictating what we should do “for our own good” is the day we kiss our individual freedoms goodbye. Is cutting back on soda a good idea? Sure, if you want to do it. Is taxing people to force them to do it a good idea? Nope.

The key here is the stated goals of health care reform of reducing costs and increasing coverage. The main problem is that any measure that alleviates the second is virtually guaranteed to nullify the first. Simply put, none of these proposals is going to lower the cost of health care – how can they when the money is simply shifted from private hands to public ones? Missing from the discussion is tort reform and reform of state insurance laws that make it harder for insurance companies to compete between the states. How’s that for choice and competition?

Instead, we’re fed plans of higher costs, higher taxes, and diminishing returns. Health care does need reforming – but this just ain’t it.

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Posted in: News, Politics