Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't Want Health Care Coverage? Get Out Your Check Book

Let's for a moment assume that health care reform - in some shape or scope - manages to be passed out of the Senate, is successfully conferenced between the two houses of Congress, and is signed into law by the President. It's not necessary for purposes of this post to discuss whether it incldues either a public or single-payer option, or how many of the 30 million uninsured in this country will be covered. (Side bar: Hold on, Mr. President. I thought it was 47 million; why are you and the congressional leadership now saying 30 million? Did the other 17 million move, or did you miscount? Is this what we can expect to see in next year's census? End side bar.)

Now let's assume that you decide that you are okay with not having coverage, and you take a pass. I don't find that beyond the realm of possiblity, especially if you are young; the risk of illness is always there, but maybe you think you'll be okay and don't need the coverage.

It's your choice, right?


If you don't buy into the system, you could get a fine as high as $1,900 - and the Internal Revenue Service will make sure you pay. As Politico reported on September 24, "Americans who fail to pay the penalty for not buying insurance would face legal action from the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The remarks Thursday from the committee's chief of staff, Thomas Barthold, seems to further weaken President Barack Obama's contention last week that the individual mandate penalty, which could go as high as $1,900, is not a tax increase. Under questioning from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Barthold said the IRS would 'take you to court and undertake normal collection proceedings.'"

Later, as was reported in the same publication, "Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.
Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it 'Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold.'"

Hold on a minute. A person exercises their individual choice not to buy health insurance coverage, and they get slapped with a nearly $2,000 penalty? What if the person can't afford to buy insurance? How are they supposed to pay the penalty - and taken to its logical conclusion, what about the $25,000 in fines?

Penalty. Surcharge. Fee. Tariff. Cover charge. Whatever you want to call it, this is another way of raising revenue and represents - wait for it - a tax. It also represents a way of penalizing the choices we make. I have a family, so insurance coverage isn't a question for me; my wife and kids need to have it. But what about the 23-year-old intern fresh out of college with no dependents and no responsibilities?

The President may be correct in saying this bill will not raise taxes. But let's pull out the thesaurus and ask the same question by substituting every possible synonym for the word tax and see what answer we get.

1 comment:

  1. Very good! Right on!

    My brother-in-law is an emergency room physician in a small affluent community. He jokingly refers to his "office" as 'Crack Head Memorial'. He sees an enormous amount of people on drugs, running from the authorities, prisoners, illegals in his small emergency room. Of course, he has a few paying customers but it would alarm you to know the truth. He had a woman and her Mother come in with an 8 month old baby that had a severe case of pneumonia. The nurse had to run them down numerous times outside where they were chain smoking during the course of the treatment for the baby. Upon discharge, they asked the doctor for free medicine. They could not afford to go buy Robitussin at the drug store. Apparently they could afford the $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes! People can afford crack, meth, cigarettes, alcohol but can not afford health insurance.

    I know that health insurance is costly. We need to really do some work and see where costs can be cut from the suppliers of medical equipment, prescription drugs, etc. I do not understand how one 4 oz prescription for chemo could cost $8,000!! Our system is definitely broken. We definitely need reform. Let's do some real work on this issue.