As I've mentioned in prior posts, I am a gigantic softy when it comes to healthcare, and willing to abandon all my doxologies and orthodoxies and most deeply held beliefs about the proper scope and power of the state so that cute little babies can get lollipops from avuncular doctors who make housecalls on the state dime. Or something. Anyhoo, John Edwards, meanwhile, has managed to make his plan for semi-hemi-demi-universal coverage sound like a Five-Year-Plan:
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.So, to sum up: it is a fine-based, wage-garnishing, penal model goverened by the most error-prone and inefficient of federal agencies. It imposes the obligation of additional monthly bills and quarterly-to-yearly paperwork on every American tax filer, rather than simply using gernal ledger monies to pay for the damned program. Its costs to individuals and families aren't remotely tied to usage, but only to income, which would be one thing if the plan were actually universal but is another entirely when it preserves a system of tiered coverage and benefits. It is, in other words, a program that's timid on benefits and draconian on garnitures, designed and destined to appeal to precisely no one.
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.
The newly covered individual would not only have access to health benefits but would also be responsible for making monthly payments with the help of a tax credit.
The exact size of the financial obligation would vary according to a person's income (lower-income Americans would receive larger tax credits).
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."
The process, according to the Edwards campaign, would resemble the process used to collect money from Americans who are delinquent on federal student loans or child support payments.