February 18, 2005

California's Proposed "Required Health Insurance, or else"

Don't let the title of this post fool you... I'm actually in favor of a system which would reduce or eliminate the burden of health care for the uninsured on those who pay taxes. This may not be talked about in open spaces where most people can hear, but most of those who don't have health insurance because they are poor also do not pay taxes (again, because they are poor).

California runs a wonderful (in theory) system called Medi-Cal. This system, when running properly (it hasn't yet) will provide health insurance benefits to those who meet certain requirements (one of which should be citizenship, although I've seen evidence to the contrary). Most of these requirements have to do with an individual's income. If you're too poor to afford your own health insurance you get taken care of. There is a gap, though, where people who make enough to "afford" health insurance on their own choose not to because of the high prices of said insurance in the state. It seems some people would rather eat than make sure if they get into an accident they'll be sewn back up again. That's where regulation comes in.

In most cases I'm not a proponent of regulation. I think people left to themselves can do alright for themselves in a free environment (with a reasonable justice structure in place, of course, for obvious reasons). However, because of the way things work in California, regulation is the only way to get things done, and so in this case I might be willing to listen without the liberal amount of skepticism I usually reserve for "Mandates from on high".

Based on an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, there are two state representatives who are pushing a bill which would require all Californians to prove they are covered by some sort of insurance when they file their taxes. The penalty in their bill (I imagine it may change before it's passed, if it's passed) would be wage garnishing or tax refund forfeit for non-compliance. Now I'm no expert on health insurance. I'm in the military, so I don't pay for mine in the traditional sense. However, I do know that Californian hospitals have a very difficult time funding doctor and nursing jobs in state and county run clinics because of the dollar hemorrhaging Medi-Cal system. I think if this bill gets off the ground with some good illegal immigration controls (to limit the amount of state run services non-tax paying illegals can take advantage of, i.e. Medi-Cal) this type of thinking in Sacramento could really do some good!

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