By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
On May 28, Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill to impose an individual mandate on all Vermonters to have state-approved health insurance. The mandate takes effect in 2020. A working group will recommend the necessary penalties for non-compliance by November.
The United States Congress eliminated the penalty tax for not having government–approved ObamaCare health insurance. So the governor and legislative leaders believe they must impose some kind of state penalty to prevent healthy people from departing the individual market insurance pool.
Who are the healthy? Primarily our young people.
And why must they be forced, on pain of penalties, to buy what for them is seriously overpriced health insurance? Because our state government doesn’t want to have to raise tax dollars to subsidize the far higher premiums of older and sicker people.
After all, why raise taxes to make a state insurance scheme work, when the government can simply force young healthy people to pay for the subsidies for their grandparents?
It’s not as if twenty-somethings are richer than sixty-somethings. They aren’t. Most of them are starting out in their working life at the lower end of the pay scale, often paying off college debts, maybe starting a family and trying to buy a home.
No matter. Our government will cheerfully hammer them to hold down the premiums for people who are near the top of their earning careers, have already raised their kids, and paid off their mortgages.
Gov. Scott tried to explain his approach this way: “We wouldn’t be advocating for a penalty. It might be something like an incentive … a penalty may not be the right approach for families that can’t afford to buy insurance.”
We think this is pretty weak. Of course the administration is advocating for a penalty. It otherwise has no way to compel young people to do something that benefits the government, but doesn’t benefit them.
An incentive? Maybe we should give young people a big discount to cancel out the huge premium increase we forced them to pay? Duh, why not just not force them to pay the huge increase in the first place?
A Democratic legislature passed a sweeping Individual Health Effort Tax mandate in 2005. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed it. Here’s what the penalty menu was: “Individuals who are not otherwise covered, and who refuse to participate in the Plan, will be sanctioned by some combination of denial of motor vehicle registration, drivers’ license, homestead property tax exemption, hunting and fishing licenses, and enrollment in any school or college in the state.”
We can’t wait to see a legislator — or a governor — try to explain this to a room full of young voters.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.