John Edwards plans to garnish wages for health care

I kid you not. It almost slipped under the radar with the CNN/YouTube debate controversy.

This from ABC News:

ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is hoping to stand-out from rivals on health care by portraying the plan of rival Barack Obama as leaving 15 million uninsured and portraying Hillary Clinton as lacking the candor needed to get to universal coverage.

Nothing new there, here’s the details of his plan and how the coverage would be enforced:

Under the Edwards plan, when Americans file their income taxes, they would be required to submit a letter from an insurance provider confirming coverage for themselves and their dependents.

If someone did not submit proof of coverage, the Internal Revenue Service would notify a newly established regional or state-based health-care agency (which Edwards has dubbed a Health Care Market).

Those regional agencies would then evaluate whether the uninsured individual was eligible for Medicare (which covers those over 65), Medicaid (which covers the indigent), or S-CHIP (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program which targets the working poor).

If the individual was not eligible for either of those existing public programs, the regional-health care agency would enroll the individual into the lowest cost health-care plan available in that area. The lowest-cost option could be a new Medicare-like public option or a private insurance plan.

Here’s the kicker, read it twice:

If a person did not meet his or her monthly financial obligation for a set period of time (perhaps a year, perhaps longer) the Edwards plan would empower the federal government to garnish an individual’s wages for purposes of collecting “back premiums with interest and collection costs.”

So basically, here’s how it breaks down. If you are not covered by a government program, the federal government would have the right to enroll you in a local private health insurance plan and bill you for the premium. If you refuse to pay it, the federal government could then garnish your wages to force payment on a private health insurance premium you never wanted to begin with.

That is absolutely nuts. What if a person doesn’t qualify for a government run plan but doesn’t want to pay for private insurance? What if they just prefer to pay out of pocket for health care? Is John Edwards really going to force them, by wage garnishment, to be enrolled in private health insurance? In New York State, thanks to over regulation, the cheapest private health insurance is like $1,000 a month for low coverage.

Can you say overreaching of government power?

Can a John Edwards supporter explain this and/or defend this?

  • Matt

    OK, a few things:

    1. The ABC story may not be trustworthy. If you click through the link, you see it’s posted in ABC’s blogs section, and I don’t know what the editorial standards are there.
    2. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the ABC story is true. Even in that case, the response here apparently misses a few important points in the ABC story:
    – According to the ABC story, the program wouldn’t do any of that automatic stuff if you submit proof of insurance with your taxes. That would seem to address Nate’s question, “What if they just prefer to pay out of pocket for health care?”
    – According to the ABC story, if you fail to submit proof of insurance but don’t qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, or S-CHIP, the program will automatically enroll you in the lowest-cost option available. That would be private insurance only if the new Medicaid-like public option were not available (if or why that might ever happen, I don’t know) or if an available private plan were cheaper.
    3. Considering this one piece of a plan in isolation may be misleading, especially if the plan also calls for tax breaks or other savings to offset the cost of insurance. The ABC story is hardly comprehensive.

    That said, I fully reserve the right to declare this plan a piece of shit once I hear all the details.

  • Fair enough.

    However, if you prefer to pay out of pocket directly and not buy insurance, then you have no proof of insurance to submit. Then would they automatically enroll you in something? What if you are lower income but refuse to be enrolled on the state system for moral reasons? Will it still force you?

    I just hate the concept of the federal government forcing anyone to be enrolled in anything they don’t need/have to be on. When did this debate about health care on the Democratic side turn into “Who can force universal health care on the most people?”

    To be honest, this sounds like Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts’s plan. Am I wrong? Simply forcing people to buy private insurance, with government help.

  • Matt

    Sorry, I misunderstood your point about paying out of pocket; I read it to mean paying out of pocket for insurance instead of paying out of pocket for individual treatments.

    As for the rest, I’ll have to read up on the plan’s nitty gritty, and the same goes for the other candidates’ plans.

  • Michael Jerryson

    I think Obama mentioned this (critiquing his ‘opponents’) in the last two debates, but it was unclear who he was explicitly referring to. Apparently Edwards was the one. Often Obama has good points, but he doesn’t capitalize on them.