The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can try to coerce Americans into buying health insurance. What I haven’t seen in the news articles covering this event is a comparison to other things that the government tries to get Americans to do. The government tries to get teenagers to graduate from high school, but about 20 percent fail to do so. The government tries to get Americans to stop smoking marijuana, but about 20 percent light up periodically, despite the criminal penalties that attach to this activity. The government tries to get Americans to drive more fuel-efficient cars, and has various tax penalties associated with gas guzzlers, but SUVs and pickups clog our highways (I parked next to a monster one yesterday that had an “Eco Boost” badge on the side!).
The penalty for those who don’t buy health insurance is an extra tax, but http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/04/taxes_schmaxes.html notes that roughly 7 million Americans (out of about 150 million civilians in the labor force) don’t bother to file tax returns.
Was it really worth two years of drama to turn America from a country in which millions of people lack health insurance into a country in which millions of people lack health insurance?
I’m still a fan of my own health care reform plan, which provides universal coverage, not just a nagging scolding nanny state that has proven itself to be incapable in the past of nagging and scolding with sufficient effect.
What will happen in 5-10 years when we discover that America still has a huge population of uninsured folks? The currently approved law does not seem to be a great stepping stone to universal coverage.
[Separately, if I were not a taxpayer, I would have been amused to see that each state got $8 million to do planning, but not actual programming, for a Web site to serve as a health insurance exchange. In other words, the federal government spent $400 million (50 states times $8 million) to do planning for the kind of Web service that a private start-up would build with five young people sharing an apartment and coding for three months.]