Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now threatening to employ Reconciliation, a procedural budget maneuver, to push Baucus’ proposed Health Care Reform legislation through, bypassing normal methods and avoiding a potential filibuster. But this bill, which currently has over 500 amendments and is still in nearly constant revision, has no provision for any sort of Tort Reform. Moreover, although it doesn’t constitute a government-run program, it forced all U.S. citizens to have coverage or be penalized!
The good news? Baucus has generously reduced the penalty in half — to a maximum of “only” $1900 for failing to have health care insurance. He was seriously planning on levying $3800 against the uninsured. We want everyone to have affordable health insurance too, but that’s not the way to go about it.
Some have made parallels between mandatory health insurance and mandatory auto insurance. The analogy fails on several foundational points. The obvious one is that people don’t HAVE to drive uninsured, but they do have to continue being alive while uninsured. Never before has it been illegal to be poor. Will we start a debtor’s prison now as well? Maybe they can make license plates to pay off the $1900 debt to society for not having the money to pay for health insurance? Or were they supposed to take food off their children’s plates to pay for that insurance?
Another matter is the way by which it is being afforded. Taxing those who have “premium” policies worth $8000 or more per person? How many of you can see those policies dropping to $7999.99 the morning after such a legislation is enacted? Baucus claims to have it paid for, but that’s only on projections. What happens when people decide to have less expensive plans, rather than to pay that excise tax? Then how is the low-income supplement going to be afforded?
Medical Justice very much wants to see real healthcare reform enacted. The current Baucus proposal isn’t the right solution though. We continue to see clearly that any proposal which does not include Tort Reform is bound to fail in the overall. Rushing this bill through before such basic aspects can be addressed is foolhardy at best. Punishing people (and their children) by adding punitive fines to an already heavy burden is not a solution either. Even at the half-off rate, a $1900 fine could be devastating to a family’s finances.
With all due respect, Senators Reid and Baucus would do well to remember the Hippocratic Oath. It seems all the more appropriate when the legislation refers to health care. Primum non nocere; First, do no harm.