Civil Disobedience May Cure HealthCare.Gov
The biggest threat to President Barack Obama’s health care law doesn’t come from Republicans in Congress but from people like Stacie Brown.
As reported in The New York Times, Brown owns a pottery shop in Georgia and is eligible for some federal health insurance subsidies. However, she has consciously decided not to purchase health care as required by law. She did so because she is a loving mother.
The plans available to Brown and her family are too expensive and have very high deductibles. Even worse, her son’s pediatrician is not covered in any of the plans. So she bought insurance for her son that covers his pediatrician and unlimited office visits, while she and her husband are going without.
Breaking the law intentionally to do the right thing is an act of civil disobedience, and it’s possible millions of Americans will pursue this path. Would the IRS really go after Brown because she did what was best for her son? Is there a jury anywhere that would side with the government?
The numbers show that very few people without insurance are signing up under the president’s plan. There were tens of millions of uninsured before the law was implemented, and there are tens of millions after. The only difference the law has made so far is to make those tens of millions of people live as lawbreakers.
The number of lawbreakers is likely to grow dramatically in the coming years because the vast majority of Americans receive health insurance through their employers. Companies seeking to recruit and retain the best workers are all reviewing their health insurance plans with an eye to making the best possible offer to workers. Over 100 million workers and their families will be affected. Many like Brown will find that doing the right thing means violating the Obama administration’s mandates.
For employers, offering coverage that matches the federal government’s new standards is very expensive. It also requires providing many employees with more insurance than they need or want. This would be harmless if plans were free, but a dollar spent on health insurance is a dollar that cannot be paid in wages.
So an employer trying to do the right thing for his or her employees would let each worker decide the appropriate mix between take-home pay and health insurance. This might mean offering an expensive plan than meets the government mandates. But it would also mean offering less expensive options as well. At a minimum, employees would have catastrophic care coverage so they are protected in the event of a financially devastating accident or illness. Those who choose less expensive insurance would have more take-home pay.
This approach would free employees to customize the right mix of pay and insurance to suit their situations.
With such freedom, tens of millions of Americans will buy less insurance than the government has mandated. By making decisions about the best way to protect and provide for their own families, American workers will engage in civil disobedience by ignoring the health care mandates. The law, as it is written, will become meaningless and unenforceable. When the government finally recognizes this, the real effort to reform our health care system will begin.
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