Hillarycare 2: Mandate Boogaloo

I, like Ezra, think it’s a good plan. In fact, the only major disagreement I have with it is also the only major disagreement I have with Ezra, namely that it includes an individual mandate, and I think individual mandates are bad. For an individual mandate to be credible, it has to have some enforcement mechanism. Under the Massachusetts plan, this is a fine; Edwards and Clinton don’t say what it will be in their plans. But unless they want to be seen throwing the uninsured in jail, it’ll be a fine. For this fine to convince people to get insurance, it has to be at least as costly as the average insurance package, if not more so. Given that the main reason people don’t have health care is that it costs too much, the people who still won’t have health care after the subsidies in the Edwards or Clinton plans are enacted will be people who, well, can’t afford it. The Edwards/Clinton response to this situation is to fine these people up the wazoo. This seems wrong; the correct response, instead, is to eliminate their presence in the system by expanding subsidies. This seems closer to Obama’s focus on cost-control and expanded access than to Edwards/Clinton mandate fetishization. Also, as his press release on the matter points out, unlike Hillary or Edwards, Barack Obama has actually passed health care reform, when he was a state senator. That seems more relevant than the fine points of their individual plans.
Meanwhile, Edwards has responded to the Clinton announcement by acting like a crazy person. He has called for Congress to pass a bill that would deny Congresspeople health care until universal health care gets passed. Ignoring the fact that this is the very worst kind of populist rhetoric-as-policy, Edwards actually seems to think that Congress would pass a bill to deny itself health care. Really. He thinks that’s in the realm of possibility. This guy served in the Senate? Anyway, the thing’s also extremely unconstitutional, as Matt Yglesias points out, rendering it even more ridiculous. Edwards has clearly stopped acting like a serious candidate; it’s time for voters and pundits to stop treating him as one.
Meanwhile, today was the SEIU Political Action Conference, where all the candidates spoke. Before the conference, SEIU president Andy Stern said that Edwards is the union’s likely pick, unless Obama “rocked the place”. From the sounds of two of Dana Goldstein’s dispatches, that’s exactly what he did. Read both of them; he really seems to have brought the house down.

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