Requiring every American to have health insurance, and offering a federal subsidy to Americans who can't afford to buy health insurance.
That's what Senator Max Baucus's long-awaited health care bill will do.
There wouldn't be a public option.
I haven't thought about this insurance requirement much until now. You know what? I think it's a very large boon to an already grossly over-fed corporate America. Everybody has to buy one of their products, and the government will pay for it if you can't.
Read what the BBC notes: "In particular, the 'individual mandate' (the rule forcing all Americans to take out health insurance or face a fine) will create a lot of new customers for insurance companies, and many of the newly-enrolled members will be young, healthy people who have previously opted not to get insurance."
Right. Let me see if I've got this. Make the healthiest part of the population buy health insurance. With their cushy new jobs and high salaries, I'm guessing. Or not; I think I heard that for teens today, the jobless rate is 25%. That's a Great Depression jobless rate.
Is there a countervailing requirement that this new-found insurance industry bounty be used to fund the un- and underinsured poor and elderly? Not that I know of. I don't think the Senate Finance Committee wants to interfere with executive bonuses.
An acquaintance pointed out that this plan is not so different from requiring all drivers to have car insurance -- except of course the government doesn't buy car insurance for you if you can't by it yourself.
The thing is, there are all these laws but there are still millions of people driving around without auto insurance. If this measure passes, there'll be millions without health insurance, too.
Who's going to police them/us? Who's going to collect those fines? A whole new phalanx of insurance bureaucrats paid for by you 'n me in the form of our mandatory health insurance premiums, that's who. I can't imagine our beneficent employers will leap to the front of the line to pick up that tab, can you?
But see, if we had a public option, government would create an insurance competitor--not unfairly capitalized or able to put private insurors out of business; just sufficient to force crucial price and coverage concessions from the for-profit private sector.
If we had a public option, government would negotiate cost savings for prescription medications, medical aids (wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc.), as well as surgical and diagnostic procedures.
A public option would also be less cumbersome because it wouldn't mandate an enforcement brigade or a collections department.
And it wouldn't have to be invented. We have one now. It's called Medicare.
But all this is far too sane for our Congress. Entirely too clean for a bunch of bought-and-paid-for insurance, pharma, and for-profit healthcare hacks.