Without delving into the details of the health care bill, one feature particularly stood out in the media explosion following its passage. The politicians who passed the bill should have noticed a serious flaw. While the bill requires the Internal Revenue Service to impose heavy fees on both individuals who do not purchase health insurance and companies that do not offer it to their employees, it does not budget for this huge expenditure nor does it give the IRS the means to enforce the measure.
This enforcement by the IRS will cost the taxpayers up to $10 billion in the next 10 years alone. That is $1 billion a year not going to health care. For patients without insurance, this money could pay for 6.7 million visits to a doctor every year at a moderately high-end family practice.
Not only can the country not afford this $10 billion, but it won’t make much of it back, since the fines are not enforceable. The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation points out that ‘non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the code, and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.” Basically, Americans can only get fined if the IRS takes the money out of their government benefits or tax refunds. Otherwise, the IRS is powerless. Bill Ahearn, the director of policy and communications for the Joint Committee, noted that ‘people who aren’t due any refunds or federal benefits will apparently face no collection action, as the IRS’s hands will be effectively tied and it will be a truly voluntary tax.” Really?
In any case, forcing people to buy health insurance is absurd. Of course healthy adults should be given the opportunity and the means to buy health insurance, but they should not be forced to do something against their will. That in and of itself is the definition of coercion, something that Americans oppose. Health care coverage should remain a choice. For some adults, it may waste significantly more money and be financially unsound to get health insurance. Patients must have the right to choose their own doctor, as well as the health insurance that best fits their needs and budget.
Imposing a fine compels people to get insurance regardless of whether it is in their best interest. Most plans that let patients choose their own doctor are more expensive, which makes them financially infeasible for some healthy adults. In addition, patients may feel presaured into plans that force them to switch doctors &- making them less comfortable bringing up issues that may need immediate attention. This could potentially lead to more people needing hospitalization for preventable illnesses and conditions. Why is coercion now part of our daily dose of government influence? The government is meant to help us preserve freedom including the freedom to make up our own minds.
Although the fine may become mandatory in the future, a voluntary tax is pointless. Especially in this economy, there is a huge likelihood that people will see no need to pay a voluntary tax for something that most consider a personal decision. This is just one feature of a deeply flawed health care bill that a majority of Americans oppose.
Rogers is a member of
the class of 2012.