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News Link • Healthcare

A Baucus-sized blunder on health care reform

• Examiner

Take the provision that legally requires individuals to purchase insurance starting in 2013 or face a fine.

According to proponents, this "individual mandate" will increase the size of insurance risk pools and bring down premiums. Young and healthy people who might normally go without insurance will be forced to buy into the system, effectively subsidizing the old and sick.

Of course, this ignores the fact that many Americans are uninsured not because they want to be but because they can't afford insurance. Nationwide, the average annual premium for family coverage is $12,300. That figure is expected to double over the next decade. Forcing millions to purchase budget-busting policies or face hefty fines will push family bank accounts to the brink.

The Baucus plan attempts to address affordability concerns by allocating billions in subsidies to people with incomes up to four times the poverty level, or $88,000 for a family of four. But with health insurance costs rising at astronomical rates, taxpayers will no doubt have to shell out ever-increasing amounts so that the subsidies can keep pace.

Baucus' proposal would also institute an array of controls on private insurance. Carriers would be subject to "guaranteed issue," which would force them to issue policies to all comers regardless of history, and "community rating," which would restrict their ability to charge different prices to the sick and to the healthy.

In addition, Baucus would impose new limits on out-of-pocket spending. And all insurance plans would be required to include certain benefits, like maternity leave and newborn care.

These controls

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