December 4, 2007


Senator John Edwards is a fount of clarification for state coercion in Health Care. His primary opponents enjoy counting the uninsured that their plans will cover, and the number of children -- all of this polls well.

Coercion, however, is enforced at the point of a gun. Credit Sen. Edwards for bringing that up. He was the first to say that we'd have mandatory checkups, and ThreeSources readers are aware of his plan to use the IRS for enforcement (some tiny law blog from Tennessee may have mentioned it as well...) Now, blog hater Joseph Rago wonders, in the Political Diary, "Will There Be Health Care Prisons?"

Blame John Edwards for the health-care bickering between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In February, Mr. Edwards offered an elaborate "universal" insurance plan that pulled the triangulating Mrs. Clinton to the left; in September, she introduced a virtually identical me-too plan. Then Mr. Edwards moved still further left to put some daylight between himself and his rivals. Last week, he started talking up how he'd actually enforce the so-called "individual mandate." A law would require every American to sign up for health insurance. But what if a lot of people can't afford it or don't want to pay for it?

Most Democrats, with their gauzy promises, don't want to argue about such practicalities, least of all Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Edwards now says he'll turn the IRS into a quasi-police agency for health care. When individuals and families file their taxes, they'll have to provide proof of insurance. If not, they'll be financially penalized or have their wages garnished for "back premiums with interest and collection costs."

And Mrs. Clinton? Instead of responding by outlining her own version of an "or else" mechanism, she skillfully pivoted, deflecting Mr. Edwards's assault directly onto Barack Obama. In a withering speech in Iowa last week, she accused Mr. Obama of "betraying the Democratic Party's principles" by not backing an individual mandate in his own plan. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle continued the assault, demanding that the Obama camp take down a "completely false" TV commercial claiming its plan would "cover everyone."

Amid the slashing attacks on Mr. Obama, of course, absent are any specifics about how a Clinton administration would enforce its individual mandate.

The problem is not a theoretical one. In Massachusetts, the only state with such a mandate in place, only about 10,000 of the 215,000 uninsured who aren't eligible for subsidies have enrolled so far. But Mrs. Clinton is not just trying to avoid discussing an unpleasant consequence of her plan. She's also manufacturing a "character" issue to use against the attractive Mr. Obama. Meanwhile, John Edwards is the only one giving voters fair warning about what Democratic health-care ambitions would mean in reality.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at December 4, 2007 12:08 PM