Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Democrats and Universal Health Care

This Los Angeles Times article provides a nice glimpse at Democratic Party authoritarian efforts to socialize American medicine. Here are the candidates' positions:

The three leading Democratic presidential contenders all propose expanding healthcare coverage but they differ in the details, particularly when it comes to whether all Americans, or just children, must be covered. All would place responsibility on individuals to make sure they, or their children, have coverage through an employer or a government program, or by buying insurance privately. Here is a look at other key points of their proposals:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.)

* Requires all individuals to have coverage.

* Healthcare providers help enforce the coverage requirement by automatically enrolling uninsured who seek treatment.

* Requires "large employers" to provide coverage or pay into a public program.

* Provides businesses with 25 or fewer employees with tax credits to encourage them to obtain or continue offering coverage.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.)

* Requires parents to obtain coverage for their children.

* Schools help enforce requirement by checking coverage when children enroll for classes.

* Requires all employers, except for start-ups or very small businesses, to provide coverage.

* Provides subsidies to help employers lower the cost of premiums for their employees.

Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.)

* Requires all individuals to obtain coverage by 2012 with exceptions for extreme financial hardship or religious beliefs.

* Enforcement rules would require individuals to show proof of insurance when paying income taxes or seeking treatment.

* Individuals who refuse to participate could see their wages garnished or face penalty payments.

* Requires all employers with five or more workers to provide employee coverage or contribute 6% of payroll toward health insurance.

* Provides tax credits for families buying insurance and creates regional purchasing pools to make coverage more affordable for businesses.
Here's an excerpt from the essay:

As voting fast approaches in a hotly competitive presidential primary campaign, the battle in the Democratic field has now focused intensively on healthcare and the question of how "universal" a coverage plan must be.

The dispute reflects a key difference among the party front-runners over how to cover an estimated 47 million people without insurance. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards are backing requirements that all Americans be covered, and Sen. Barack Obama is supporting such a mandate for children only.

Healthcare has spurred some of the fiercest exchanges among Democrats on the campaign trail, with the Clinton campaign demanding that Obama renounce "misleading" claims and Edwards charging that neither of his chief rivals goes far enough in their reform plans.

Though the specifics of the healthcare proposals are complex, there are compelling reasons why Clinton has chosen to fight on this ground -- and why Obama and Edwards are fully engaged.

The new focus was seized by Clinton's campaign, which has struggled in recent weeks to respond to attacks from Obama and Edwards that she lacks conviction on key issues. Those attacks seemed to gain traction after an Oct. 30 debate in which she failed to clearly state her stance on granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Since then, the New York senator has seen her lead in some states shrink, and at least one new survey shows Obama with a slight lead in Iowa.

In this week's tussle, Clinton used healthcare as a way to turn the tables on her chief rival. Now she is presenting herself as the candidate with core convictions and bold ideas, and portraying Obama as an opponent of true reform who is being disingenuous with voters.

Clinton's campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, issued a letter demanding that the Illinois senator withdraw a television ad that says his healthcare plan would "cover everyone." She argued that Obama's plan would leave about 15 million people uninsured.

"Until the time comes when Sen. Obama has a plan that will cover everyone, you should stop running this false advertisement," she wrote.

The letter followed a speech earlier this week in which Clinton lashed out directly at Obama, charging that anything less than universal care would be "betraying the Democratic Party's principles" and that, despite Obama's contention that his plan offers universal care, it "does not and cannot cover all Americans."

"When it comes to truth in labeling, it simply flunks the test," Clinton said.

Obama's campaign refused to pull its ad, which has been airing off and on in Iowa and New Hampshire since September, and the senator fired back during a speech to Democratic activists here.

"I have put forth a universal healthcare plan that will do more to cut the cost of healthcare than any other proposal in this race," he said. "Here's the truth: If you can't afford health insurance right now, you will when I'm president. Anyone who tells you otherwise is more interested in scoring points than solving problems."
Read the whole thing. The Obama plan doesn't require insurance coverage for adults (now if he'd drop the children's insurance mandate, he'd really make sense).

What about healthcare authoritarianism? The Clinton plan is silent on enforcement mechanisms for people who forego health coverage. John Edwards is not, however: He'd garnish the wages of people who don't want to be told by government what to do about their own health.

Of course, there's no discussion of the likely increase in taxes, as you can see. One more reason to vote Republican next year.