(CCU Staff) After two years of campaigns, hopeful orations, and double speak, the only citizens experiencing sweeping change may be the janitors on Capitol Hill. With the House passing the Democrat’s health care bill last week, that could change should the Senate follow suit. Failure regarding this bill, the President said, was not an option. But what if that isn’t true? What if failure is part of the design?
One of the hotly contested measures in the Democrats’ bill is an insurance mandate, which would force healthy people who do not use much health care, and often choose not to buy insurance, to purchase coverage. President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and their Congressional cohorts openly profess that such a mandate will lower health insurance costs for the sick, since healthy people pay more in premiums than they receive in claims reimbursements, and these surpluses subsidize insurance costs for the unhealthy. Yet what these Beltway fixer-uppers have not stated is that the mandate might be designed to fail.
To get healthy people to shell out thousands of dollars for insurance policies they do not want, the government would have to institute stiff-as-whisky and hard-as-nails penalties to curb non-compliance. Otherwise, people would find it cheaper to pay the penalty. Exhibit A: Mitt Romney instituted a mandate that Massachusetts employers pay for their employees’ health insurance or face an annual $295 penalty. As $295 is no more than the price of a nice night out in Boston, many businesses paid the penalty, ignored the mandate, and left their employees to fend for themselves. Exhibit B: Forty-seven states mandate that vehicle owners purchase auto insurance. But as Regina Herzlinger points out in her book, Who Killed Health Care?, a lack of aggressive enforcement has produced widespread non-compliance. “Roughly the same percentage of Americans are uninsured [for medical costs]…as lack automobile insurance,” she writes, “[even though] the purchase of automobile insurance is required in all but three states, while the purchase of health insurance is voluntary.”
So why didn’t these designers institute severe penalties for non-compliance and create an aggressive enforcement mechanism? Look in the mirror: Every voter handled roughly, and forced to comply, would become an implacable political foe. The irony is apparent—without the political chutzpa to enforce such penalties, these mandates, in effect, are pointless.
The question arises why politicians propose such designed-to-fail mandates in the first place. The answer is that the mandates appear to be the political equivalent of a free lunch: an opportunity for politicians to promise subsidies (and change) for those who are currently purchasing insurance, without any increase in taxes. But the money for those subsidies has to come from somewhere. Where? Look in the mirror again. In September, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos questioned President Obama regarding that very point. Instead of logically defending his mandate, Obama became visibly flustered, appearing like a politician with his hand in the middle class cookie jar. He had been exposed.
Since history can be our greatest teacher, we need only to look to 2001 to see what will happen should the Democrat’s mandate slide through Congress. During his 2001 campaign, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey promised to lower the state’s high auto insurance rates by getting tough with uninsured motorists. He said he would arrest offenders and confiscate their cars. The press and voters ate it up. But, after the election, the idea was shelved. It did not take a crystal ball to foresee the TV news images: hard-working men and women in cuffs, asking how, unable to commute to work, they would be able to provide for their families.
In like manner, it does not take a crystal ball to foresee the TV news images of those whom President Obama would have to go after. America is filled with hard-working men and women, just getting by, who are not buying health insurance because they expect they would pay more into the insurance pool than they would take out. These are the people President Obama would have to go after, and fine thousands of dollars (or worse) to make his mandate succeed. But he won’t, he can’t. A mandate means penalties, and penalties are political suicide come 2012…unless the whole thing is designed to fail.
Jonathon M. Seidl is a 2009 graduate of The King’s College in New York City where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics. His writing has appeared in WORLD and online with The American Spectator. He currently writes from Denver, where he works at Colorado Christian University's graduate division.