Big Labor Against Mandatory Health Insurance...And So Am I

It's quite rare when labor unions and I agree on an issue, but this once Big Labor and I are on the same page. (Before I go any farther I must explain that I was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1505 for 20 years. Then I woke up.)

Seeing some of the efforts at state level to mandate health care coverage, such as RomneyCare in Massachusetts or GovernatorCare in California, just to name two, and seeing them fail strengthens my belief that government run/subsidized health care is a Very Bad Idea™. It just so happens Big Labor agrees with me. Who'da thunk it?

On Monday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "universal" health-care plan was shot down by a committee in the state's Senate, 7-1. The most vociferous opponents were not fiscal conservatives, but labor unions that launched a last-minute revolt against its most crucial feature: an individual mandate that would have forced everyone to buy coverage.

...[M]any California unions argued that a mandate would force uninsured, middle-income working families to divert money from more pressing needs toward coverage whose price and quality they cannot control.

The unions are correct: This is exactly what is happening in Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney enacted a similar plan two years ago as governor. The experience in the Bay State deserves a lot more scrutiny than it has been getting.

Massachusetts uses a sliding income scale to subsidize coverage for everyone up to 300% of the poverty level -- or a family of four making around $60,000. Everyone over that limit is required to pay for their own coverage if their employers don't provide it. All this has inflated demand, which, combined with onerous regulations on insurance suppliers, has triggered premium increases of 12% for this year -- double last year's national average.

No one is escaping the financial sting. The state health-care bill for fiscal 2008-2009 is expected to touch $400 million -- 85% more than originally projected. Still the state won't be able to fully shield those it subsidizes from the premium increases. But uninsured folks who don't qualify for government help really get pounded. Before the hike, the cheapest plan for uninsured couples in their 50s cost $8,200 annually. Now, unless government bureaucrats hand them an exemption, they might well find it cheaper to pay the penalty -- up to half the price of a standard policy -- than purchase insurance. That is, pay to remain uninsured. This is legalized extortion: TonySopranoCare.

While I may not agree with all of the labor unions objections to such a plan, I agree with their position just enough to support their point of view. Such mandatory care is indeed legalized extortion committed by the state. What makes all of this worse is that Hillary Clinton likes the idea, basing some of her ideas on the already failed Massachusetts model created by Mitt Romney. If you think health care is bad now, just wait until we're all forced to buy health insurance coverage.

It seems we're heading in the wrong direction on health care. Frankly it would probably help of health insurance was done away with as we know it today. It's time to roll things back a bit and rethink the idea of health insurance and what it should cover.

Catastrophic health insurance coverage makes sense, covering those incidents where patients might have a difficult time paying a large medical bill. Routine medical care should be out of pocket. Preventative health measures should be covered, at least in part because preventing poor health is far more cost effective than treating a patient once they have become ill. How does the onld saying go? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Truer words were never spoken.

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