POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Expanded Health Care Coverage? Rumors Are Greatly Exaggerated, Unless Paying Fines Is Now 'Health Care'

Well, for my next trick, I was going to demonstrate that the contention that the watered-down Senate health care compromise will nevertheless lead to a virtuous expansion of care for some 30 million Americans was pure bunkum... but I see that over at The Plum Line, Greg Sargent has already plucked that bunny carcass from the hat:

The assertion -- a reference to the individual mandate -- has been picked up widely and uncritically in the media. But it's now coming under fire from liberals who have all but given up on the bill. Democracy for America, the reconstituted political operation of Howard "kill the bill" Dean that's run by his brother, Jim Dean, just blasted an email to its list hitting the claim:

"Senate leaders are all over Washington claiming they finally have a healthcare reform bill they can pass, as long as they remove the public option. After all, they say that even without a public option, the bill still "covers" 30 million more Americans.

What they are actually talking about is something called the "individual mandate." That's a section of the law that requires every single American buy health insurance or break the law and face penalties and fines. So, the bill doesn't actually "cover" 30 million more Americans -- instead it makes them criminals if they don't buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess."

The White House is fully on board with selling this nonsense as some sort of impossible-to-pass-up opportunity for America. But for millions of Americans this "opportunity" will amount to nothing more than the opportunity to pay a significant fine for not signing up with a private insurance company.

Of course, if the Senate can come up with some way of paying a fine that also, say, heals the sick with magic, then this would truly be an awesome accomplishment. But since that's not the case, we're forced to embrace the stupidity of the federal government raising revenue off a policy that's not even serving people.

Digby pretty much nails this, dead to the door:

Nobody's "getting covered" here. After all, people are already "free" to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won't make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn't or didn't want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people's money against their will, saying it's for their own good.

Also, I am reliably informed that we are in the midst of some kind of massive unemployment crisis -- precisely the sort of thing that may very well inhibit the ability of people to purchase health insurance OR pay the resulting fines. And, of course, if Americans continue to lose their jobs and the health benefits that go along with them... well, that 30 million figure is going to look less and less significant, isn't it?

MORE:
Liberals Take Aim At Core Obama Health Care Talking Point [The Plum Line]
The Best We Can Do [Digby]

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