Peter Orszag, the White House director of Management and Budget, has compared the new health insurance mandate that would force every American to purchase coverage or pay a tax to seat belt laws, TPM reports.
But the comparison does not hold up.
Laws requiring that passengers wear seat belts are administered at the state level, while the insurance mandate would be federal. Wearing a seat belt does not apply to people unless they are in a moving automobile on a public road, whereas the health care mandate would apply to any American merely for being alive. And fastening a seat belt does not cost any money, whereas purchasing health insurance costs thousands of dollars. In fact, Monday’s CBO report found that an individual insurance policy for somebody earning over $43,320 (and thus not qualifying for subsidies) would rise to $5,800 in 2016.
The only real similarity is that they’re both an example of government assuming a paternalistic role.
What’s most galling about Orszag’s statement is the suggestion that people who choose not to purchase health insurance should be viewed as social outcasts:
Speaking with reporters at an event sponsored by Health Affairs at the National Press Club, Orszag dismissed critics who say the fine that essentially mandates coverage will work because he believes it is more of an issue of being socially acceptable.
As an example, Orszag cited seatbelt use, saying that there is more adherence to seatbelt laws than speeding laws because of social norms.
While proponents of a mandate try to portray those who are uninsured by choice as deadbeats, in reality many people with low annual health care costs make the rational decision to save money on monthly premiums, and simply pay out of pocket for whatever small costs they do incur. Now those same people will be forced to purchase a health care policy that’s been pre-approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (or Health Choice Commissioner in the House bill), and submit proof of insurance to the IRS along with their tax forms. If they do not comply with the mandate, they’ll be forced to pay a tax.
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