I just spoke with a health care expert who filled me on the “individual mandate” – the requirement in the Baucus bill that everyone get insurance. He informed me that this provision, which the GOP is now attacking, isn’t even something we wanted. It’s something the insurance industry wanted, and we agreed, only provided that they make the system affordable via the public option. Here’s what my expert told me:
A mandate to carry health insurance is something the insurance industry wants. They agreed to “guaranteed issue” – no more denials for pre-existing conditions – in exchange for the mandate back in November. And it is something that makes sense only if we also get two things:
– A public health insurance option to lower costs and hold the industry accountable; and
– Affordability, so it won’t be a burden on the middle class if they have to carry insurance.
That deal makes sense: We are handing the insurance industry a captive market of at least 50 million new customers (the number of uninsured in this country today who will be required to carry insurance). In exchange, the industry should get competition and the people should get affordability.
Without a public option or affordability – neither of which are in Max Baucus’s bill – a mandate puts a huge burden on families and gives the industry a captive market for nothing.
What’s more, a recent poll showed that the mandate is only popular with the public if there is a public option to go along with it. If the insurance companies want a mandate – want us to hand them 50 million new customers – then they should have to accept competition and affordability. They’ve accepted neither, yet Senator Baucus (and seemingly President Obama, who has anointed Baucus as his point man) has still given them the entire farm. Then again, they do own Baucus via their huge donations to him over the years. It’s still a wonder why the Obama administration would hand responsibility for their signature policy initiative to someone owned by lobbyists. That isn’t chage we can believe in.