Don’t Buy Health Care? Pay $25,000. Can’t Afford The Fine? Spend A Year In Jail.

Guest Post By Leonidas

Leonidas is a frequent, right of center commenter on The Moderate Voice and has been invited as a Guest Voice.



Policio reports:

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.
Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it “Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.

Two thoughts occur to me.

First, not everyone will have an easy time scraping up the money to pay, although I know some assistance is planned to be made available.

Secondly (if they can’t pay $1,900 what are the chances they can pay $25,000?), can our overcrowded penal system handle the increased traffic? Should people who couldn’t afford to pay be grouped with thieves, drug dealers, and worse?

To me this type of penalty makes this less appealing than a fully paid public option (as much as I oppose that). What they should do instead, if they must do this at all, is to freely cover everyone with catastrophic insurance and let individuals buy their own “other than catastrophic insurance” on the proposed markets. This should be without threat of legal penalty and with any available assistance, having the cost of the catastrophic coverage taken out of it. Fining and imprisoning people for not buying into health care strikes me as against the principles of our nation.

Author: Guest Voice

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  1. Another interesting aspect of this mandated coverage, is you have to wonder how it will be enforced. Will people be forced to report to the government evidence of having insurance and thus with whom? An invasion of privacy issue perhaps?

  2. D.E, I'm not making accusations. I put two of your comments together and pointed out what appears to me to be a contradiction. It happens to the best of us at times. It appears that you would agree that one person's experience does not reflect on the entire system. We agree on that, but then we need to be careful when we say things like “I have nothing but praise for the quality of the health care I and my family have received” as a rebuttal to claims about the flaws of those systems. Again, I didn't intend my comment to be accusatory. I'm a debater at heart, and I have a record of pointing out contradictions and flaws in arguments, even in cases where I agree with the conclusion (as this post and my comments are evidence of).

  3. “Even if we did adopt one of the other systems it would be an improvement.”

    Even if we were to agree that our problems are bigger than those of other countries, this statement assumes that a system that works in other countries would work just as well in the US. Some portion (perhaps most) of the increased cost of health care in the US is not due to waste. We demand more health care, and we pay our doctor's more (I believe because of the high competition in the high-skill labor market–in other words, there are more opportunities for highly educated people outside of the medical profession) than other countries. See Note that for skilled professions, the US far out-pays other countries. But for unskilled positions, the difference is less pronounced. Why is that? Because there is a high demand and short supply of high skill workers. We need to do more in education in this area, and reduce the barriers to getting into the medical professions (tort reform would help in this area, although I agree with the President that it is not a magic bullet by any means).

    US consumers also fund more specialty research than that which happens in other countries, which is evidenced by the high quality specialty care centers that are in the US, such as the Mayo clinic, Cincinatti Children's Hospital, and Cleveland Clinic. Pharmaceutical companies face price controls in other countries, and so make up for the cost of research on the back of US consumers. Drug companies aren't popular these days, but they are responsible for doing much good by producing medicines that are extremely costly to develop.

    So, I'm far from convinced that we could adopt a European system and we would see our costs go down to their levels. (And I do believe the main problem is cost, which puts health care out of reach of too many people). So I would not necessarily agree that we would be better off in a European system, even if I were to agree that European countries have less problems.

    I'd also point out that the popular rating that puts the US 37th in health care is weighted by cost. So we are not low *despite* of our cost. We are low *because* of our cost (some of which is explained not by waste but by differences in economics as I described above). When not considering cost, it's something like 17th. And that's counting some suspect measurements like access equality (two countries who have poor health care for all would score higher than a country with poor care for some and good for others) and life expectancy, which is more a factor of life-style than health care quality.

    I do now know how the US would rank in a non-biased rating, but I suspect it would be in the top 10, if not top 5. There is certainly room for improvement, but there is also room to screw things up even more.

  4. Well said, Dad. A good analysis of facts underlying the stats, sensible cause-and-effect explanations, references to neutral sources. No demonizing this group or that group, no hysteria, no reliance on repeatedly-discredited data, no conspiracy theories. I would love to see more of the left's positions articulated as evenly; they might yet win me over.

  5. “Will people be forced to report to the government evidence of having insurance and thus with whom?”

    You may very well need to turn in such paperwork with your Taxes. I see many reasons to be against this bill but this seems to be the least of the issues

  6. US consumers also fund more specialty research than that which happens in other countries…

    Please show a citation to prove this point.

  7. The US ranks highest in cancer survivability:

    “The differences in survival are due to a variety of reasons, Dr. Verdecchia and colleagues write. They include factors related to cancer services — for example, organization, training, and skills of healthcare professionals; application of evidence-based guidelines; and investment in diagnostic and treatment facilities — as well as clinical factors, such as tumor stage and biology.”

    The US ranks highest in median life expectancy for cystic fibrosis:….

    Of course, those are just two examples. It doesn’t “prove” my point. If anyone has more comprehensive data, I’d be interested in seeing it. But even those on the left have agreed (and the president has said on multiple occasions) that our ratio of specialty care providers to general practitioners is higher than other nations. This is a problem in that there are not enough general practitioners. But in trying to change the system to get more of them, we need to be careful not the throw out the baby with the bath-water. Having a large number of specialty doctor’s appears to be making us a leader at treating those who are very sick.

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