I practically choked on my Cheerios this morning as I read the news, discussed in more detail by Charley and John McDonough, that the Senate has unanimously (!) passed a bill that not only does nothing to encourage employers who don’t provide health insurance benefits to get in the game, but that requires individuals to carry health insurance or face tax penalties.
Anyone who has been around this site for a while knows that I really, really, really hate the idea of an individual mandate. It’s a bad idea for practical reasons – sure, the government says it’s going to make insurance affordable, but we all know that that’s not really going to work and that thousands of families will end up choosing between paying the premiums for their crappy stripped-down “insurance” and paying the rent or feeding the kids. And it’s a bad idea for philosophical reasons, as I’ve laid out at length in the posts linked above. (Short version: the government has no business telling me that I must buy something I may not want simply for the privilege of living in this state.)
To be fair to Senate President Travaglini, who is getting lots and lots of flack for this, the Globe article reads as though Romney strong-armed him into including an individual mandate. According to the Globe, the bill first introduced by Trav didn’t include the mandate, but it “was inserted yesterday after Romney made clear to Senate leaders that he was worried the federal government wouldn’t approve the plan unless it contained a strong incentive for people to buy insurance.” Translation: Romney told Trav that if the mandate wasn’t in, he would scuttle the plan by not advocating for it with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, with whom Romney reportedly has a close relationship. And if the feds don’t accept the plan, then we don’t get the $385 million that is the whole point of this stupid bill. So Romney is leveraging his friendship with Mike Leavitt into an onerous burden on Massachusetts residents, all so that he can run for President on having “reformed” health care in Massachusetts. What an opportunistic, amoral jerk.
In any event, it doesn’t much matter to me whose idea this individual mandate was, or who ultimately votes for it. I stand by what I said in November:
this notion that it’s OK to tax individuals – and yes, Mr. “no new taxes” Governor, it’s a tax – within an inch of their lives to force them to carry health insurance, but it’s too hard on business to give employers a choice of paying a tax or covering their employees, is bullshit. If that kind of plan passes, I will be the first one signing the referendum petitions to repeal it.
Looks like it’s time to get those referendum petitions ready.