Obama v. Clinton : Health Care

In terms of policy, there are so few differences between Obama and Clinton that there is often no debate. They haggle over who will bring the troops out of Iraq, but their answers are essentially the same: they both will, ASAP. There are some other differences, notably Clinton’s proposal to freeze interest rates for 5 years (which is a terrible, terrible, market distorting idea). However, must pundits have zoned in on the idea that the differences in ObamaCare and HillaryCare are the greatest ideological divide in this primary race. (I don’t really think so, but whatever)

Essentially, Hillary’s plan ‘mandates’ that all Americans have health insurance. If they don’t already get it from somewhere (their job, personal purchase), this means they would need to buy it. She has not discussed any provisions for enforcing this, and her website is silent on the issue. Thus her policy, as stated, is “If you don’t have health insurance, buy it! And if you don’t buy it, …”

Alternatively, Obama’s plan focuses more on reducing costs to make health insurance more affordable. In Obama’s plan, no one will try to force you to buy anything. He makes an exception for children, because children do not have the ability to choose for themselves. In essence, Obama believes that most people who don’t have insurance want it, but can’t afford it. He says this often. But what he doesn’t say, and I believe is implied, is that for the minority of people who don’t want health insurance, you shall have the freedom to choose.

This is essentially about freedom. This is about the government telling you what to do. This is about another federal requirement being imposed. Timothy Noah of Slate Magaize writes:

If you want to drive a car, it’s accepted that you have to buy private auto insurance. But that’s conditional on enjoying the societal privilege of driving a car; you can avoid the requirement by choosing not to drive one. A mandate to buy private health insurance, however, would be conditional on … being alive. I can’t think of another instance in which the government says outright, “You must buy this or that,” independent of any special privilege or subsidy it may bestow on you. Even if such a requirement could pass muster in the courts—and I have my doubts—it seems to me that politically it would give the inevitable conservative opposition a nice fat target to rally around. Big Brother will steal your wages if you don’t buy a health insurance policy!

The point about facing conservative opposition is a good one. There will be opposition to this plan. It is a large shift in policy, and a major new government expenditure. However, billions of dollars are abstract to the general populace (and, I fear, in Washington as well). The prospect of the government adding another imposition, another restriction, another abridgment of freedom, on the other hand, is a very tangible fear to many. Most people don’t like to be told what to do.

As Barack often says, this is a philosophical difference. And Barack stands on the same side as most Americans: the side of freedom, choice, and personal responsibility.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has expressed a similar viewpoint.

Well, well. In other words, HillaryCare II isn’t all about “choice,” but would require financial penalties for people to pay attention, including garnishing wages. To put it more accurately, the individual mandate is really a government mandate that requires brute force plus huge subsidies to get anywhere near its goal of universal coverage.

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