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Jailing the uninsured
Could Americans who refuse to buy health insurance actually be imprisoned?
 
Could insurance dodgers potentially face hard time?
Could insurance dodgers potentially face hard time?
Adam Tanner/Reuters/Corbis

The House health reform bill would require all Americans who can afford insurance to buy it, raising a thorny question: What happens to those who opt out, then suddenly get sick, and stick the rest of Americans with their medical bills? President Obama supports a “penalty…high enough that people don't game the system." How high exactly? Republicans point out that the House bill specifies “a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” Could Americans really go to jail for forgoing health insurance?

The Dems have gone too far this time: "This is the ultimate example of the Democrats' command-and-control style of governing — buy what we tell you or go to jail," says Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), as quoted by Nolan Finley in The Detroit News. Obama's health care reform is looking more and more like the product of "a totalitarian regime."
"Buy insurance or go to the gulag"

This is actually about placating insurance companies: "Where is the constitutional basis for requiring everyone to buy insurance?" asks Dick Morris at The Hill. This threat of incarceration for non-payment is designed to appease insurance companies who "want to see their coffers swell….the more draconian the penalties for failing to pay them large sums of money to pad their bottom lines, the better."
“Pelosi bill: Jail for no insurance”

Calm down — these "prison sentences" are a myth: The only people who'd face penalties are those who have plenty of money to buy insurance, but choose not to, says Karina Newton at Speaker Pelosi's official blog. And, frankly, they should be penalized: "Right now, every insured American family will pay $1,017 a year in insurance premiums just to cover the medical expenses of the uninsured. That’s $42.7 billion this year - or $1,354 per second." And most of those who'll get punished will find their cases handled by the IRS, which generally uses a "civil process" to settle "delinquent" payments, not jail time.
“Health insurance reform mythbuster: ‘Reform could mean jail time’”

This hysteria obscures the real issue: Those commentators who've seized on this unlikely threat are just demogogues spouting GOP talking points, says Michael Roston at True/Slant. Let's debate the real question: “Should we have an insurance mandate” at all?
“House GOP helpfully points out that tax evaders go to jail in America”

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SEE EDITORIAL CARTOONS ON HEALTH CARE REFORM:
Healthcare prisoners against reform
The GOP And the heathcare public option
Harry Reid's scary healthcare plan
Public Option is near its death
Democratic vs. Republican health care plans

 

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