Unions Tipped Support Away From Individual Mandate
The "most vociferous opponents" of the California health care reform legislation, which the state Senate rejected on Monday, "were not fiscal conservatives but labor unions that launched a last-minute revolt against its most crucial feature: an individual mandate that would have forced everyone to buy coverage," Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the Reason Foundation, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
Dalmia writes that "many California unions argued that a mandate would force uninsured, middle-income working families to divert money from more pressing needs toward coverage whose price and quality they cannot control."
She adds that the failure of the California legislation has "national political implications." According to Dalmia, although Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has "denounced" rival Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for "refusing to include an individual mandate in his health care plan," he "seems to understand the perverse side effects of an individual mandate." Obama is "surely correct that part of the reason 45 million Americans are uninsured is not that no one is forcing them to buy it but that they can't afford it," Dalmia writes.
In addition, the recently implemented Massachusetts health insurance law, which served as the "inspiration" for both the California legislation and the Clinton proposal, "has inflated demand, which, combined with onerous regulations on insurance suppliers, has triggered premium increases of 12%" for 2008, according to Dalmia. She writes that Massachusetts "won't be able to fully shield those it subsidizes from the premium increases" and that "uninsured folks who don't qualify for government help really get pounded."
Dalmia concludes, "Should Hillary Clinton ever be in a position to bully people into buying coverage, a coalition of labor and fiscal conservatives might well do to HillaryCare what it just did to GovernatorCare" (Dalmia, Wall Street Journal, 1/31).