Not being a credentialled health-policy expert, I’m not sure how seriously to take the “mandate” question.
On the one hand, HRC is clearly right that adverse selection is a problem now, and would be a problem even if premiums were “affordable” by some objective standard. On the other, since she hasn’t defined the sanctions backing up her mandate, we don’t really have any way of judging whether her plan would leave more or fewer people uncovered than an Obama-style plan with a penalty (“back premiums,” he said last night) for people who wait until they get sick to sign up. [Contra Ezra Klein, I don’t think this can fairly be called “harsher” than punishing people now for not buying insurance they don’t want. It’s hardly “harsh” to say that people who need health care, and who chose not to insure themselves, should at least have to go back and pay the premiums they should have been paying all along.]
In any case, at least some of my elders and betters in health-care wonkery think the question is overblown. So I don’t count a mandateless health care plan as a major problem with the Obama candidacy.
But running fear-mongering ads against what may turn out to be a necessary component of a national health-care program seems to me both ethically questionable and politically tin-eared. This is just not the argument Obama wants to have, any more than Iraq is the argument HRC wants to have.
Kevin Drum speaks for me: “Yuck.”
I’d like to hear Obama say that the flier was over the line and is being pulled.