Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Legal Challenge to Healthcare Reform

There are a number of challenges by politically motivated attorneys-general and governors, playing to larger reactionary forces. None of them have legal merit, let alone real Constitutional challenge. However, the "individual mandate" provision has always been troublesome. If it is the federal government directing every citizen to buy the product sold by a private sector corporation, absent a public option, then it is unprecedented. The closest to it would be state governments requiring automobile insurance, but that is for people who own cars, and citizens are not required to own cars, so they have some choice.

However, this is not how the so-called individual mandate provision was written. As explained by Lawrence O'Donnell, whose expertise is precisely in the area of financial regulations in Congressional legislation, what the mandate basically says is that if you don't buy health insurance, you won't get the tax break that people who do buy the insurance will get. That is clearly within the law and within accepted practice.

Moreover, the IRS will not investigate compliance, but respond to what is on the tax return. I imagine if non-compliance arises in a tax audit, that might be a different story. The IRS has denied the latest Rabid Right scare story, that it is hiring thousands of new agents to monitor compliance.

I still think that an option to buy public plan insurance from the government would more definitively solve this troublesome problem of people feeling they must buy insurance from the same corporate entities who inflate prices, cut coverage whenever possible, and use their money to influence politicians and advertise to drive out competition. But given the compromises in this bill overall, this is an acceptable price at this time for the reforms it includes.

Although I have to admit I say that knowing that it will never apply to me. I look forward to Medicare.

Update: Here's a more detailed explanation of both the insidious Rabid Right lies about this, and the facts.

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