July 6, 2009
No HAPI EndingBy Ryan Craig
The respect the federal government has for the American electorate, at least the amount it shows, has reached a new low.
The Healthy Americans Private Insurance plan, which incidentally goes by the acronym "HAPI," is the new plan the federal government has devised to force us to pay more in taxes and take a handout whether we want it or not.
The bill is S.391 and is currently making rounds in the Senate. Incidentally, we have a bit of Orwellian "doublespeak" that seems to be the standard in Washington, especially in regards to social oriented legislation: The "Healthy Americans Private Insurance" plan, which states as its purpose "to provide affordable, guaranteed private health coverage that will make Americans healthier and can never be taken away" isn't a private plan at all; it's a public one.
It was sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D, OR) and has 14 cosponsors, of which include a veritable cornucopia of tri-partisan support:
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D, HI)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R, UT)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D, OR)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R, TN)
Sen. Edward Kaufman (D, DE)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D, WA)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I, CT)
Sen. Michael Crapo (R, ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC)
Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow (D, MI)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D, FL)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D, LA)
Sen. Arlen Specter (D, PA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R, NH)
Section 102 of this bill lists the mandates. As US citizens, we must enroll in the HAPI plan or prove that we have coverage under a different program, be it Medicare, Tricare (military), VA, Indian Health Service, or an employer-based option. Additionally, Americans must follow the same rules regarding dependents. The bill makes no mention of private health insurance we pay for ourselves, or perhaps having the ability to just pay for our health expenses with cash.
To put it bluntly, the federal government is saying we must enroll our family members and ourselves in a health insurance plan...or else.
The only way around it is to claim a religious exemption, but there's a catch: the states have to verify whether or not a religion is exempted and if one actually practices it.
For some reason visions of "Our Lady of Perpetual Capitalism" or "First United Church of Free Markets" with stained glass windows showing Ronald Reagan come to mind.
Section 102 also covers the penalties. If we do not opt for this plan, or provide proof of coverage, we will be fined "the number of uncovered months multiplied by the weighted average of the monthly premium for HAPI plans of the same class of coverage as the individual's in the applicable coverage area." Adding insult to injury, the government will add 15 percent charge to this fine.
There is a ray of light to this penalty though. Any state HHA can "reduce or waive the amount of any late enrollment penalty applicable to an individual under this subsection if payment of such penalty would constitute a hardship."
For the sake of argument, let's say Joe American doesn't want health insurance. The rate for what this plan would cost in his area, for people in similar circumstances, is $100 per month. A year goes by before he is caught by the HHA, at which time he has accumulated $1,200 in late fees. In addition to paying that amount, he will have to add $180, which makes for a grand total of $1,380. If he is married and has two kids, the amount goes up to $5,520.
Seems like a lot of trouble for a free healthcare plan. Of course, most thinking people know that nothing from government is actually free. It'll either be paid for by government borrowing, printing money, or increased taxes, all three of which are detrimental to our liberty.
Joe American is caught, so he can either sign himself and his family up for this "free" plan, or continue going about life doing what he wants with his money and be forced to pay it anyway, once he's caught, plus the $180 fee.
The bill also creates a new bureaucracy, which is covered under section 113. This is the "Healthy America Advisory Committee," comprised of 15 members, and must have among its members at least one health economist, ethicist, nurse/non-physician provider, health insurance issuer, health care consumer, actuary, and someone from the United States Preventive Services Task Force. These people are paid at the GS-18 rate, which is an imaginary rate that doesn't exist on the regular GS pay scale. To put this in some context, a GS-15 makes a salary of at least $98,156 on the low end, which is then adjusted upward based on the locality. For a job in Washington D.C., add 23.10%.
Americans can rest easy at night knowing that an advisory committee made up of D.C. bureaucrats making a salary of over $120,000 each is looking out for their health.
There is something in this bill for the poor also. The eligibility requirements for a full subsidy on this program is having a "modified adjusted gross income that is below 100 percent of the poverty line," which is calculated by family size. While the poverty line varies by state, the HHS lists the national average for the lower 48 at $22,050 for a family of four. This means a household making a gross income of $44,099 qualifies for this "free" program. In Alaska, the qualifying gross income for a family of four is $55,139. In Hawaii, it's $50,719.
Elections have consequences. What we are seeing here represents the sort of respect American voted for themselves in the past few elections. To paraphrase someone from one of my political circles, Americans voted in a government that saw George Orwell's "1984" as an example instead of the warning it was meant to be.
Ryan Siefert is a former non-commissioned officer who left the Army in pursuit of a career in academia.