Thursday, September 17, 2009

Local Democratic Congressman wants to fine the poor for being poor

One of the blogs at has an entry on local Congressman Scott Murphy's support for mandatory private health insurance. In doing so, the Democrat has managed a way to support just about the only thing that would actually make the present health care system worse.

Mandatory health insurance can work only within the context of Medicare for All (single payer). Anything else essentially punishes the poor and middle class for not being well off.

From what I understand, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the plan Murphy supports would fine people thousands of dollars for the "crime" of not being able to afford health insurance. In other words, you punish those who've hit hard times for the "crime" of... having hit hard times.

You'd think it was devised by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Mandatory insurance scheme does have one great beneficiary: the private insurance lobby.

Some have compared the plan to auto insurance, which is also obligatory. But there are two main differences.

Auto insurance is mandatory not to protect you, but rather to protect someone you might crash in to. The purpose of health insurance is to protect yourself.

Further, auto insurance is not mandatory for everyone. It's only mandatory if you drive. If you can't afford auto insurance, then you can take your car off the road and not drive. Does this mean that if you can't afford mandatory health insurance, you can just stop breathing?

Murphy claims, "The critical thing though is that if you do that you’ve got to have affordable policies out there for people. There’s got to be an option that they can afford that is available to them."

But if you live paycheck to paycheck or are in dire straits, then it's quite possible that no policy, however cheap, will be affordable. Perhaps our multimillionaire venture capitalist Congressman doesn't have a clue what "affordable" means to ordinary, working Americans.

In this sense, mandatory insurance with fines is actually WORSE than the present system because it takes money away from something they might need (food, shelter, electricity) and forces them to put it toward something they may or may not use at some distant point in the future... and that even if they do use, they will have to pay further expenses like co-pays and deductibles.

Medicare for All works because everyone else props up those who have fallen on difficult times. Workers pay taxes which go into a pool that covers everybody.

Yes, it means that you're partly paying for someone else: children, seniors, the less well off. This is how every social program works: the cost of collective programs is spread out collectively. The taxes I indirectly pay via my rent are used to educate kids, even though I have none. They are used to pay firefighters even though I've never had to call them. My income taxes are used to provide Medicare for senior citizens, even though won't be one for decades, and highways even though I don't drive.

I don't wave my hands hysterically and scream "theft" because some day I may have kids, some day I may have a fire in my building and hopefully some day I'll be old.

There are certain things everyone pays for and everyone has access to its benefits.

Libertarians and conservatives like to claim that Medicare for All won't work because the government is evil/incompetent and can't do anything right. Let's extend that logic further. We have universal, taxpayer funded national security. Let's disband the military! We have universal, taxpayer funded public safety. Dismantle all local and state police forces and all sherrif's departments. If people want to be safe, let them pay for their own private security forces or mercenaries! I'm waiting for someone to advocate this.

Fining someone for being poor is about as despicable a thing as I can think of. It's so ludicrous you'd think it was some Swiftian parody of the sort of cruelty liberals like to impute to those heartless conservatives. What can be most heartless than this?

You'd think it was a parody until you realize that it's being pushed the Democratic Party, the organization that has the gall to refer to itself as "the party of the people."

I guess to the Democrats, there are no people other than insurance company shareholders with their corporate "donations"/bribes.


PlanetAlbany said...

Aren't they proposing subsidies for the poor to buy insurance? Didn't they do that in Mass.? I'm not sure exactly how much they would pay for whom, but it seems to be a relevant point.

Brian said...

Good question. I am not certain. Any specifics would be welcome and required before I could comment in an informed manner. Specifics matter because obviously a direct subsidy to those in need or a "public option" (which has been basically rejected by Dems) would be much different than the much vaunted tax credit, which does little good for people living pay check to pay check. It still seems to perpetuate the dysfunctional system as well as doing nothing to deal with skyrocketing costs and I still strenuously object to fining people for having fallen on tough times, though.

PCS said...

You are getting the Baucus 'plan' mixed up with the House plans I think. The Baucus plan is horrible. We might as well just hand our bank accounts over to the insurance companies. Requiring people to buy private, individual health insurance policies at around $6-7000 per year isn't going to work if the subsidy isn't isn't high enough. The Baucus has drastically cut the subsidies. Also, without an incentive for the insurance companies to cut costs, the price of insurance is just going to go up, up, up.

PCS said...

Comparing car insurance with health insurance isn't really fair. If you don't drive you aren't likely to cause a car accident with resultant injuries. However, anyone can get sick. If an uninsured individual gets sick, we all pay for their care.

PlanetAlbany said...

Maybe it is a tax credit they're proposing. I dunno.

Paul said...

Well said.

In every other industrialized country, health care is a basic human right.

Part of this is also that industrialization increases the rates of some diseases like cancer. Why make the individual pay for the advantages we all get from industry?

Single payer would cut 30% or so of costs across the board spent on paperwork.

I urged Murphy to support House Resolution (H.R.) 676
The United States National Health Insurance Act
(“Expanded & Improved Medicare for ALL”)