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New Jersey Stays Stuck on Stupid

Roseanne Roseannadanna, played by the immortal Gilda Radner in those long-forgotten days when Saturday Night Live was still funny, would know what to say to the state legislators who just voted to slap the hapless residents of the Garden State with an individual insurance mandate: “You guys sure do pass a lot of stupid laws. You belong in New Jersey!”

The U.S. Congress eliminated the federal penalty last year, but the Democrats who run New Jersey aren’t letting their long-suffering constituents off the hook. And many are responding to the state-level penalty in the same way that Jane Curtin reacted to Roseannadanna’s commentary. NJTC News received an email that captures the general sentiment:

Now the New Jersey governor is going to attempt to try to compel people who reside in his state [to] purchase health insurance or face a state fine? I am well beyond sick and tired of this.

The New Jersey mandate is, for all intents and purposes, identical to the Obamacare mandate that was just neutered by Congress late last year. It will force state residents who have failed to purchase government-designed health insurance to pay a tax equal to 2.5 percent of their household income or $695 per adult and $347 per child, whichever is greater.

New Jersey’s new Democrat governor, Phil Murphy, is expected to sign the mandate legislation into law in the near future. This is so stupid on so many levels that it nearly deprives one of speech. First, the Obamacare experiment proved that such mandates don’t work. In 2009, former President Obama pitched health care “reform” in the following terms:

There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point.And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage.… Now is the time to deliver on health care.

Well, our erstwhile President succeeded in passing the risibly titled “Affordable Care Act,” and its individual mandate was sold as a crucial component without which the health care law could not succeed. And, after remaining in effect for four years, the uninsured total was still about 30 million people (including an increase of about 3 million in 2017).

This failure should be enough to give any group of legislators, even Democrats, pause. But, in New Jersey, it’s just plain crazy. The point of the mandate is to force young, healthy individuals to buy coverage that they probably wouldn’t otherwise purchase. All it will accomplish in the Garden State is the acceleration of an exodus of Millennials that is already under way:

A recently released research report finds that Millennials are moving out of New Jersey.… The research was conducted by New Jersey Future, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, and included a new analysis of Census data.… Millennials are the largest generation in American history and essential to the economy of New Jersey.

In other words, passing a mandate whose primary function is to prop up the insurance industry by redistributing income from healthy Millennials to the halt and the lame is just about as dumb as it gets. So, naturally, one would expect New Jersey to be an outlier. But it isn’t. There are at least eight other Democrat-controlled states considering such idiotic legislation.

It goes without saying, of course, that the Golden State will probably subject its residents to this nuance of Californication. And even the people who style themselves “patient advocates” are in favor of a mandate, including the executive director of an organization that ostensibly represents health care consumers. Anthony Wright of Health Access California avers:

An individual insurance requirement is an important way to keep Californians in the exchange… so they don’t leave people in the lurch or destabilize the overall market.… The penalties collected could be used to lower the cost of Covered California insurance.

It would appear that many Californians are asking, “With patient advocates like these, who needs greedy insurance executives?” And, like New Jersey, California is hemorrhaging residents. According to California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LOA), the state is enduring a net loss of its most productive residents pursuant to domestic migration:

For many years, more people have been leaving California for other states than have been moving here. According to data from the American Community Survey, from 2007 to 2016, about 5 million people moved to California from other states, while about 6 million left California.

Not coincidentally, much of the out-migration information used in the LOA report is derived from IRS data, which includes only people who earn enough to file taxes. In other words, the net loss in population is among the people who pay the bills. So let’s hope that every Democrat-run state decides to impose insurance mandates on their productive citizens.

That will encourage the most intelligent, productive, and engaged Americans to join us deplorable, backward folks out here in flyover country. The weather is usually better here, the people are much nicer, and we own the future. As for those of you who would rather remain stuck on stupid, I return to Roseanne Roseannadanna: “You belong in New Jersey!”

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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