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Jul. 18 2010 - 7:12 pm | 164 views | 0 recommendations | 13 comments

Can semantics save mandatory health insurance?

BERLIN - OCTOBER 12:  A dentist and her assist...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

If this weren’t such a deadly serious issue — and one fraught with such danger down the road — I’d be getting a huge giggle out of the way mandatory health care is twisting on the spit of hairsplitting definitions.

Apparently, our Constitution, as interpreted by opponents to health care reform, prohibits our government from requiring that everyone, sick or healthy, young or old, have health insurance — or pay a penalty if they don’t. That interferes with commerce, the naysayers insist, and thus is a no-no for the federal government to do.

Ah, but what if we say that everyone must buy health insurance or pay an extra tax instead? That’s perfectly okay, federal government certainly has the right to tax.

What’s so irritating about this is that of course it’s not a tax. Who ever heard of selective taxation on people who refuse to buy a product? Allowing the government to so thoroughly broaden the definition of a tax — and thus, broaden its ability to levy more of them — opens a ghastly can of worms.

But allowing young, healthy people to go without insurance opens an even larger can of even uglier wrigglers. This is one of the few issues on which I side with the insurance industry: If we are going to force them to insure everyone, despite preexisting conditions, they have got to be able to bring their costs down by insuring a pool of folks whose health care needs won’t exceed their premiums. That’s simple economics.

So yeah, if we have to call it a tax to get it passed, then do it. But I don’t have to like it.


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  1. collapse expand

    Who every heard of selective taxation on people who refuse to buy a product?

    Well, renters, for one thing. I rent my apartment, so I pay a selective tax on having not bought a house. Also, I’m childless, so I pay a selective tax for not having children.

    The government gives tax credits all the time. There’s no difference, mathematically and legally, between giving a tax credit if you do buy something and a tax penalty if you don’t.

  2. collapse expand

    RE:But allowing young, healthy people to go without insurance opens an even larger can of even uglier wrigglers. This is one of the few issues on which I side with the insurance industry:

    If this were Stalin russia, or Maoist china, your view would be correct…..but since this is free America, with freedom bought and paid for with the blood of patriots….we will never let Barry Sotero Hussein Obama force health care upon

    Let the chicago gangster go back to Kenya and live in a shack with his brother

  3. collapse expand

    Semantics can be a dangerous game in government and business. Credit default swaps are another name for insuranc, that if called insurance, would subject the creation and trade of same to regulation. The game going forward is basically a single-whammy bad deal converted into a double whammy bad deal. Before we got hosed by the insurance companies/big pharma/care delivery industries, and lawyers. Now we will get “serviced” by all of the the aforementioned wonderful organizations only with with Uncle Sam piling in, too. I don’t like it, but a government controlled monopoly may have been better than this wildly arcane neo-liberal model with everybody’s brother-in-law cashing in as a pre-requisite to Joan Doe ever getting treatment. The lines of demarcation between enterprise and government are getting so gerrymandered, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys!

  4. collapse expand

    So Justin, according to your logic, any tax deduction for which you personally do not qualify is itself a tax? There are deductions and credits available to farmers, for example, that are not available to you when you file your taxes (I’ll assume you’re not a farmer). Do you consider these taxes because you’re not deducting expenses for excess prepaid farm supplies for instance?

    • collapse expand

      So Justin, according to your logic, any tax deduction for which you personally do not qualify is itself a tax?

      Absolutely. The government has to raise a certain amount of revenue, after all, and if it doesn’t get it from you it has to get it from the rest of us.

      Do you consider these taxes because you’re not deducting expenses for excess prepaid farm supplies for instance?

      Sure. We’re all paying a kind of “not being a farmer tax” due to the tax credits and subsidies that farmers receive. But it’s well within Congress’s prerogative to levy such taxes, just as Congress has the prerogative to levy a tax credit for having purchased health insurance.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    more to the point,
    no legal advice herein (seek your own
    per your local jurisdictions’ processes)

    Is now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t health insurance,
    if it’s designed to work that way, fraud?

    Got interstate commerce interference by way of
    waivers?

    here’s another take on where we stand:

    EverNewEcoN’s take on

    The GOP’s last gasp on healthcare reform
    Andrew Leonard, Salon.com, Jan. 20, 2011
    http://www.salon.com/technology/how_the_world_works/2011/01/19/the_gop_last_gasp_on_healthcare_reform

    Americans are actually understanding now-you-
    see-it-now-you-don’t monopolistic health insurance,
    and its variously 39%, 59% (…whatever jazzes the
    health execs, apparently the increases rounded
    down 1% the same way retailers mark items as
    $8.99, $9.99, etc.) premium increases leaves them and
    their families thoroughly insecure suckers.

    The health insurers are wondering if mandatory
    purchases by healthy persons, the risky ones
    getting sent to state-assisted pools, is actually
    preferable to a dwindling pool of employ’ds
    who’re ready and able to buy coverage.

    http://sites.google.com/site/evernewecon

    http://sites.google.com/site/evernewecon/home/realestate/gotdemagoguery-/transportation/compassioncompetition/whistleblowercentral/whatelseisnew-

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