Originally published 01/24/2010
House and Senate Democrats hammering out the health care bills share the conviction that only those who pay into the insurance system are deserving of its benefits. This may be good politics, but it's bad public policy. And, while appealing to moderates in both parties, it's an assumption that's going to doom health care reform. This "social insurance" system is organized around regular contributions from wage earners. These contributions are then returned in the form of benefits (funeral expenses, pensions, unemployment insurance). It works, in other words, more like a toll road than a public right-of-way. The on-ramp to that toll road is a "covered job," the point at which revenues are collected and benefits are disbursed.
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