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Taking Aim at Obamacare’s Coercive Core

10:24 AM, Sep 28, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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In the climactic scene of Star Wars (spoiler alert for those few who haven’t yet seen it), Luke Skywalker flies his Rebel X-wing fighter along a trench of the Imperial Death Star and, with one perfectly placed shot, hits a small exhaust port leading directly to the fortress’s main reactor—causing the Death Star to burst into a supernova.  When thinking about delaying Obamacare’s individual mandate, that image is worth keeping in mind.

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For it’s not just that delaying the individual mandate is popular (a recent Rasmussen poll finds that Americans favor such a delay by a 30-point margin), an easy sell (President Obama lawlessly delayed the employer mandate, so why not lawfully delay the individual one?), a quick way to cut the deficit by more than $20 billion in 2014 alone (according to the Congressional Budget Office), and a “very reasonable and sensible” thing to do (to quote Democratic senator Joe Manchin, one of 23 Democratic members of Congress who’ve already publicly expressed support for the delay).  Indeed, it’s all of those things.  But, in two key veins—one psychological, the other functional—it’s also a way to pave the path to full repeal.

Psychologically (as well as rhetorically), the individual mandate is very important to the left.  Obamacare is all about coercion—about forcing people to do things they don’t freely choose to do—and the individual mandate serves as its coercive core.  It’s what allows Obama to grasp onto the thinnest reed of legitimacy when describing Obamacare as offering “universal coverage,” despite the CBO’s estimate that, even after ten years and $1.8 trillion, Obamacare would cover less than 45 percent of the uninsured (at the whopping 10-year cost of $72,000 per newly insured person).  That’s a far cry from “universal coverage.”  But one can think of it—and describe it—as “universal,” so long as one is forcing every American, as a matter of federal law, to do the government’s bidding.  Without the individual mandate, Obamacare would cease to be “universal coverage,” even in the sense of being universally coercive, and would simply become “45 percent coverage.”  That would be demoralizing to the left.

In reality, however, even hitting that 45-percent mark would likely prove impossible, for that’s the figure the CBO gives when assuming the mandate will be in effect.  As things now stand, if a young person, say a 30-year-old single man, making, let’s say, $40,000 dollars a year, decides not to buy government-mandated health insurance, he’ll be fined $400 next year, and $800 the year after, and $1,000 in 2016—not a fortune, but not exactly chump change, either. 

If the mandate were delayed for a year, however, the same 30-year-old man wouldn’t be fined anything in 2014 (and would subsequently be fined only $400, rather than $800, in 2015, etc.), meaning that the only motivation he’d have to buy government-approved insurance next year would be if he were actually attracted to the product or to the taxpayer-funded incentives to buy it.  Well, according to a recent report from the National Center for Public Policy Research, the young man in question almost surely wouldn’t get a dime’s worth of Obamacare subsidies, even though a 60-year-old with the same income would get a huge subsidy, at taxpayer expense.  So the 30-year-old could either buy government-approved insurance at artificially inflated prices (courtesy of Obamacare), without a subsidy, or he could simply forgo that overpriced insurance, knowing that, if he ever gets sick or injured, Obamacare will let him sign up later—since it’s only “fair,” as Obama continually tells us, to mandate that those with preexisting conditions be able to sign up for “insurance” after the fact. 

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