After spending months pushing back the deadline to get anything out of his committee in a vain attempt to reach anything bipartisan, Montana Democrat Max Baucus has a plan.
And it's a really bad plan. Of course he has no public option and instead favors non-profit 'co-ops' (no surprise there, we've been hearing about that for months.) But the things that really stand out are health insurance mandates (something that President Obama opposed during last year's campaign.) He backs the mandates with hefty fines for people who don't buy their own private insurance.
Of course Baucus points out that his plan includes tax credits to help people who buy their own insurance recoup costs.
How quaint. The tax credits don't even cover most of the cost of insurance, which averages about $13,000 per year for a typical family of four. Further, when do you get a tax credit? Usually when you get your income tax refund (unless of course either spouse has a court judgement of any type against them, in which case the tax credit would presumably go where refunds go now-- to their creditors. Wow, so if you were forced to declare bankruptcy because of medical costs your Baucus tax credit would go to pay your old creditors.) But even if you do get the credit, it won't be until months after you've had to start shelling out over a thousand dollars a month. And that even assumes that your family is in reasonably good health, otherwise you might be paying more-- much, much more.
The fine in the Baucus proposal for not buying insurance could run as high as $3,800 per year.
Isn't this exactly the same plan as Mittcare in Massachusetts? Require everyone to buy insurance, fine the tar out of them if they don't and maybe send them a relatively small check months or even years later to pay them back for it?
Mandates like these are terrible ideas. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and requiring them to pony up this much money is almost sadistically cruel. If someone isn't buying health insurance because they can't pay their bills now, then how can you require them to come up with over $1,000 a month more?
I know that if I and my wife didn't get insurance through our employers (who pay part of the premium) there is no way I could afford to start paying that much more every month.
I think the answer lies in Washington. Like in the case of Mitt Romney (who was worth over a quarter billion dollars when Mittcare was passed in his state) Senator Baucus is used to throwing around hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars. So he has no comprehension of how hard it would be for most people to shell out a thousand dollars a month. I mean heck, people write him campaign contributions for several times that amount all the time. Stretching your last couple of dollars to buy groceries and gambling that they won't shut off the electricity until after you get paid is so far beyond his comprehension that he has no clue that some people don't have thousands of dollars sitting in the bank they can just use to buy health insurance until the tax credit comes through and gives them a third of it back.
Supporters of such a plan liken it to automobile insurance, which is also mandatory in every state. However there is a key difference: you don't have to drive a car at all. Many people don't, especially if they either don't have the money to maintain a car or if they live in a place where mass transit is good enough to get around. Besides, car insurance costs only a fraction of what health insurance costs.
But while you may have a choice about driving, you don't have a choice about living. Well, actually you do but I hope that Senator Baucus isn't planning to reduce the number of uninsured by pushing more of them to lose all hope and shoot themselves.
Make no mistake about this one. The Baucus plan is so bad, that doing nothing would actually be better for the uninsured.