Reversing course on a campaign pledge in which he promised to oppose a health care individual mandate, President Barack Obama now supports such a plan. Speaking to CBS News Wednesday, Obama said "I'm now in favor of some sort of individual mandate as long as there's a hardship exemption. If somebody truly just can't afford health insurance, even with the subsidies that the government is now providing, we don't want to double penalize them."
The individual mandate, which would legally require every adult in the United States to buy into a health care plan or face a fine, has been a contentious point throughout Obama and Congress' recent negotiations to enact meaningful health care reform. It has not garnered as much attention, however, as the even more controversial public option, which would establish a federal government-run health care plan that would compete with private, corporate-run plans. A coterie of liberal democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have even vowed to vote against any House of Representatives bill that contained a watered-down or altogether nonexistent public plan, which would effectively torpedo the legislation. Unless, of course, the Democratic leaders managed a miraculous turnaround of support from noncompliant Republicans. But we all know that the GOP's only hope for regaining any semblance of credibility with the American public is to counter anything Obama says, in the vain hope that he'll be wrong and they'll cash in 2010 or 2012. This issue is no different, except that the GOP is genuinely hostile to a public option.
They yammer on about how the public option is a Trojan horse scheme to introduce universal health care to this country yet they never disavow the folly of an individual mandate. That is because the mandate would aid one of their top constituencies: the health care industry! The Republicans and the health care lobby bemoan how government is too incompetent and inefficient to run a health care operation, yet claim that the very same operation will be too affordable and run the private corporations out of business. Yes, the artificially inflated cost charged to customers by these companies is trumpeted as a selling point on disallowing public plans. A situation in which the US government forces an unwitting American public to buy their product is what the Blue Cross Blue Shield and MetLife CEOs will dream about as they jerk off on your grave (how ironic is it that you're only in that burial plot because they refused to cover your cancer/diabetes/being caught in a hail of gunfire?).
Obama had refuted Hillary Clinton's campaign pledge to seek an individual mandate as president during the Democratic primaries, a plan that former North Carolina senator John Edwards also supported. Despite the dearth of Dems in favor of such a plan, it was actually former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, himself a Republican primary candidate, who enacted the nation's first state-level health care mandate in the Bay State. Every adult resident of the state without health insurance is fined half of the cost of the lowest-priced plan estimated to be available to them.
While Massachusetts may now have the lowest number of uninsured residents of any state, is it fair to assess a penalty to people simply because they do not want to buy into a rip-off health care plan? It's not like car insurance; you have a say in whether you drive a car or not. Don't want to pay the insurance? Fine. Then take a bus or prepare to walk. Don't want to pay income tax? Then don't work! Prostitution and drug dealing are popular ways to earn a tax-free living in this day and age. But with this mandate, you have no choice. Are you alive? If the answer is yes, then pay up!
The idea behind compulsory health insurance is that the more people paying in, the more prices will drop. Obviously, the geniuses behind this fiscal model are not aware of the basic economic principle that when demand rises, so do prices. And with a virtually captive consumer base, goaded into purchasing your wares via state-sponsored fiat, why in the hell would insurance companies want to decrease prices??
The cheapest plan for an individual earning $31,213 per year in Massachusetts is $9,872 in premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Residents with low incomes are now required to co-pay for office visits and medication, whereas before they were eligible for free care. Government subsidization has almost doubled since implementation in 2007, from $630 million to $1.3 billion this year.
Love it or hate it, capitalism is not geared towards generating the best product. It's about yielding the best profit. If a better toaster or Snuggie or health care plan is a result, then so be it. But it was no more than a happy coincidence or even consequential byproduct. Never the final goal... Never the endgame. The health care industry is diametrically opposed to the public option, yet wholeheartedly goes along with the individual mandate because it's good for business. A public plan would be competition and despite the lip service they frequently bestow upon the free market, that's not really what they want. They want whatever is good for business, whether it's denouncing government involvement in their industry (public plan) or celebrating government involvement in their industry (individual mandate). And now apparently, not only is it good for business, it's good enough for Obama's reelection prospects and efforts to get something, anything, on the books regarding health care in order to cement his supposed legacy. He needs a policy accomplishment in the history books. Simply being known as the first black commander-in-chief will not cut it. But what's the point if the legislation lacks bite? Like the callous HMO culture that he'd be protecting, Obama would simply be placing a Band-Aid on an ailing health care system in which its benefactors are severely hemorrhaging empathy for their fellow Americans and, more importantly, fellow human beings.