Americans increasingly fear that health reform is something Congress is planning to do to them, not for them. Nowhere is this truer than with Washington's plan to require every American to have health insurance or face a hefty new tax.
Liberals believe the federal requirement is necessary to achieve universal coverage. This is a worthy goal, but it sets up a cascade of big-government spending and intrusions that the American people are saying, as clearly as they can, they do not want.
For starters, imposing an "individual mandate" means the government must define what constitutes acceptable health insurance. All of the bills making their way through Congress would require a very expensive benefits package.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxpayer subsidies would be needed to help Americans pay for this rich coverage.
Families that don't buy insurance would face a new tax of up to $1,900 a year. People with expensive health insurance likely would be hit with a 40 percent premium increase as their insurance companies pass a new excise tax on to them.
Young people would face higher premiums to subsidize older Americans. And the government would tell everyone how much they can afford to pay for all of their health costs, up to $20,000 a year for those with incomes above $96,000, for example.
Further, employers would be required to provide health insurance, help their workers pay premiums, or face penalties. Many of them don't believe the promised government subsidies for some small businesses would help and say the new burden would lead to less hiring and more layoffs.
The mandate also puts the federal government in the business of regulating health insurance, inevitably triggering price controls and leading to restrictions on access to care.
Only one in five Americans say their health insurance coverage and the quality of the care they receive will improve if a bill passes Congress this year. How right they are!
President Obama argued against imposing a mandate for health insurance during the campaign saying, "It's not that people don't want health insurance. It's that they can't afford it."
He was right and should focus now, not on the individual mandate, but on making health care and health insurance truly affordable. That is what the American people want.
If insurance were more affordable, millions more people would buy it, especially if Congress gives everyone the same tax break for buying coverage. That's a simple solution that could expand insurance coverage without massive new government spending and bureaucracies.
Published in The Washington Examiner, September 25, 2009