Talk about raising the dead. In other Congressional healthcare reform news, what’s old is new again:  Talk of insurance mandate growing

Within four years, every American could be required to own health insurance or pay their way through tax penalties. The odds of such a sea change rose last week when chief Democratic and Republican Senate negotiators on a health care bill acknowledged that many on the Finance Committee considered the so-called individual mandate essential to lower insurance costs for those who already have coverage.

…Under the Senate proposals, taxpayers would be required to obtain insurance by 2013 and report their coverage on federal tax returns. Those who do not purchase coverage would pay an excise tax, which could be as high as 75 percent of the premium for the lowest-cost health plan in the individual’s area.

Hillary Clinton pushed that idea during the primary campaign.  The President approaches it in his usual principled fashion:

As president, Obama has been careful not to rule anything in or out — at least publicly. He has asked Congress to write the details of the reform package, shielding him somewhat from making decisions that could open him to charges of flip-flopping. His aides have signaled he wouldn’t reject a bill that included an individual mandate.

Expect to see it called “shared responsibility” because people can relate to that:

It’s meant to convey the idea that every American has a responsibility to stabilize the health care system. Currently, people who have insurance are subsidizing the treatment of “free riders” who can afford coverage but gamble that they will not get sick. This argument could prove powerful, given that health insurance premiums have been rising at a faster rate than wages.

…Asked about a proposal that “would place requirements on individuals, employers, the government and insurance companies so that everyone shares in the responsibility” for providing coverage, 59 percent said they would support such a plan, and 33 percent opposed it.

But when it’s described as what it is, not so much:

But the percentage of support dropped when people were asked about “requiring individuals to have health insurance” via an individual mandate — either through their employers, by buying it or by paying a fine. Forty-seven percent said they favored the plan, while 44 percent opposed it.

The last time this was tried, during the first Clinton administration, it resulted in a Republican-controlled Congress.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see history repeat itself if Congress and Obama try it again.

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