Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Agree With Clinton on Mandates

Barack Obama has a health care plan in which people are not required to get health insurance, yet if they go without they can get health insurance after they are sick. This creates a huge free rider problem.

John Edwards has a health care plan in which health insurance is mandated and the IRS will check on people. This might actually work, but is close to political suicide. People hate the IRS already. The idea of making filing tax returns more complicated really irritates people.

Clinton has a mandate but describes no enforcement mechanism. Some people argue that both Obama and Edwards are at least honest about what they are proposing. Honesty is an over-rated virtue. A plan with a mandate that is not enforced is politically feasible. The explanation of the free rider problem should be enough to convince people that a mandate is reasonable. Even the free riders won't be to upset about a mandate that is not enforceable. However, once the principle that people have an obligation to insure themselves is in the law, the inevitable non compliance will make it possible to introduce an enforcement mechanism later. This will involve reports that the plan is failing as the promised universality has not been achieved, but it might be possible to actually get the job done in two steps.

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