Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) released his general plan for the Senate version of ObamaCare yesterday, and it portends some hefty costs for American families. Baucus stripped out the public option but left in place individual mandates to buy insurance — and backed them with big fines, administered by the IRS. Each family could pay up to $3800 per year for failing to get government-approved coverage:
A bipartisan group of senators huddled in the afternoon to decide whether to move forward on an overhaul plan that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) began circulating over the weekend. The plan includes some of the stiffest penalties Congress has proposed for Americans who don’t carry health insurance coverage.
Sen. Baucus emerged from a meeting with the six-member bipartisan group saying he had given his colleagues until 10 a.m. Wednesday to provide feedback on his draft. The group will meet again Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to come up with an agreement before Mr. Obama’s address.
Under the plan, people who earn between 100% and 300% of the poverty level (or between about $22,000 a year and $66,000 a year for a family of four) would face fees ranging from $750 to $1,500 a year.
For taxpayers with incomes above 300% of poverty, the penalty starts at $950 a year and reaches as high as $3,800 for families. Nearly 12 million people fit in this category, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management.
Individual mandates are bad enough, at least constitutionally speaking. States have insurance mandates for drivers, but those are predicated on accessing public roads, not private enterprise. The courts should make minced meat out of an argument that Congress has the power to compel citizens to buy insurance for any reason, let alone health insurance.
But the problem here goes beyond the mandate, and even beyond the fine. Who will manage this mandate? Who determines the validity or non-validity of insurance coverage? That bastion of medical knowledge, the Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayers will have to provide proof of insurance from the previous tax year to avoid the fines. If the IRS doesn’t consider the coverage adequate, families could be out the cost of the coverage and the fine. They can appeal any negative verdicts, of course … to the IRS.
The IRS hasn’t the expertise, nor the flexibility, to manage the nation’s health-insurance coverages. This is a tremendously bad idea. As I wrote earlier, who in this country believes that the IRS doesn’t intrude enough into their lives?