Four ideas for how progressives can defend a strong individual mandate while also minimizing its burden on the middle class.
What could these four great ideas be. Increasing tax credits to make sure every American can afford quality health insurance? Introducing more cost control mechanism to hold down the rapidly increase cost of health care? Give the American people the choice of a robust public option that would be 10% cheaper than typical private health insurance?
No, their suggestions are straight from the health insurance industry:
This policy memo offers four ideas for maintaining a robust coverage requirement while minimizing its burden on the middle class:
• Option 1: Instead of assessing a penalty, eliminate or reduce tax breaks for people who don’t buy insurance
• Option 2: Allow young people to pay lower premiums
• Option 3: Ease the minimum benefit requirement
• Option 4: Allow more people to buy catastrophic coverage
Let me translate this from Third Way inside-the-beltway talk into plain English:
• Option 1: Instead of assessing a penalty, eliminate or reduce tax breaks for people who don’t buy insurance. Translation: Have harsh financial punishment for people who don’t buy private health insurance, just be sneaky about it and try to pretend it is not a direct fine. (AHIP demands a strong individual mandate.)
• Option 2: Allow young people to pay lower premiums. Translation: Increase the community rating ratio so that older people can be charged much more. That way, those sick, old people who need medical treatment will have a tough time buying real coverage. (AHIP’s letter asks for a larger community rating ratio.)
• Option 3: Ease the minimum benefit requirement. Translation: let insurance companies not really cover anything. We can just pretend that we expanded insurance coverage by having people buy worthless policies that don’t cover their medical problems.
• Option 4: Allow more people to buy catastrophic coverage. Translation: We should force people to buy high deductible (high profit margin) junk insurance. (AHIP’s reform proposal ask that they be able to sell super-bare-bones, high-deductible "essential benefits plans," which do not need to follow state minimum benefits laws.)
Well, thank you, Third Way. Doing the bidding of the health insurance industry definitely sounds like a great idea. All we need to do is completely water down what we consider to be “coverage,” then we can all rally around forcing Americans to buy plans from the for-profit health insurance industry. Or, to put that in Third Way speak:
These options can enable progressives to rally behind a strong coverage requirement that can help deliver health care stability and security to all Americans.