Krugman Praises Edwards, Clinton Rips Obama on Healthcare
by TarHeel, Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 04:25:27 AM EST
I think Obama goofed a bit in his healthcare plan - thinking it was to "audacious" to propose universal health care when it was needed and now paying the price.
Anyhow, Edwards has been leading on this and continues to.
The central question is whether there should be a health insurance "mandate" -- a requirement that everyone sign up for health insurance, even if they don't think they need it. The Edwards and Clinton plans have mandates; the Obama plan has one for children, but not for adults.
Why have a mandate? The whole point of a universal health insurance system is that everyone pays in, even if they're currently healthy, and in return everyone has insurance coverage if and when they need it.
And it's not just a matter of principle. As a practical matter, letting people opt out if they don't feel like buying insurance would make insurance substantially more expensive for everyone else.
Here's why: under the Obama plan, as it now stands, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance -- then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. Insurance companies couldn't turn them away, because Mr. Obama's plan, like those of his rivals, requires that insurers offer the same policy to everyone.
Second, Mr. Obama claims that mandates won't work, pointing out that many people don't have car insurance despite state requirements that all drivers be insured. Um, is he saying that states shouldn't require that drivers have insurance? If not, what's his point?
Look, law enforcement is sometimes imperfect. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws.
Third, and most troubling, Mr. Obama accuses his rivals of not explaining how they would enforce mandates, and suggests that the mandate would require some kind of nasty, punitive enforcement: "Their essential argument," he says, "is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don't buy it, then you'll be penalized in some way."
Well, John Edwards has just called Mr. Obama's bluff, by proposing that individuals be required to show proof of insurance when filing income taxes or receiving health care. If they don't have insurance, they won't be penalized -- they'll be automatically enrolled in an insurance plan.
That's actually a terrific idea -- not only would it prevent people from gaming the system, it would have the side benefit of enrolling people who qualify for S-chip and other government programs, but don't know it.
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