For Democrats, the Holy Grail of health care has always been “universal coverage.” The words have flowed effortlessly out of their mouths so often that most of them probably long ago stopped thinking about what it would mean in practice if their dream were ever really implemented.
Well, now they — and we — know. The ugly truth is that “universal coverage,” Obama-style, is a burdensome “individual mandate.” The federal government is not offering the American public something new and better that they couldn’t already get on their own. It is handing down a punitive tax on anyone who dares to allocate their limited resources to things other than one-size-fits-all health insurance. In the bill being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. households will be forced to pay $750 to the IRS for every adult without federally approved coverage. In other words, “universal coverage” in the real world would be another unfunded mandated handed down by the federal government.
What’s more, it would hit low-wage workers the hardest. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the average premium for standard family insurance coverage under the Reid bill will reach $14,100 in 2016. For a worker making $100,000, that’s 14 percent of his income. But for someone making $50,000, it’s a 28 percent hidden tax. The Democrats like to tout the expansive new subsidies they would offer to make insurance “affordable.” But the truth is that the vast majority of workers would get no such help. They work for employers who would be forced to offer them insurance, and they will have no choice but to take it. And though the employers would pay much of the premiums, it’s really the employees who would shoulder the burden in the form of lower take-home pay.
For much of the year, the Left kept quiet about the punitive aspects of the individual mandate because they sensed a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure a glide-path to a federal health-care takeover. No longer. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s principled opposition to any and all forms of the so-called “public option” has finally woken them up to the monster they helped create. For the Left, it’s one thing to require every American to participate in a program that has as one option something like Medicare. It’s quite another if the only options available are private health insurers. The thought of a Democratic Congress creating a guaranteed marketplace of captive consumers for the for-profit health-insurance industry is now shaking the already fragile foundation of the Obamacare edifice.
Recently, analysts at the Lewin Group, a consulting firm, examined the impact of Senator Reid’s bill. Not surprisingly, they found that the individual mandate would be very costly for the middle class. Households with at least one uninsured resident would see an average increase in their costs of $1,205 per year, assuming full implementation. For uninsured households with incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 per year, costs would jump $1,841 annually, on average. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 would pay $2,100 more each year.
That’s not the kind of change the public believes in. They were promised painless reforms that would weed out inefficient care and direct the savings to more coverage. Instead, what they would get out of this process is onerous new federal requirements, taxes, fines, and fees, all to pay for a program that promises fewer choices, more bureaucracy, and lower-quality care. It’s no secret why the public has turned decisively against the congressional plans. They would deliver less for more.
“A New Tax on the Uninsured” is not exactly a catchy slogan. But it is an accurate description of what Obamacare’s individual mandate would deliver.