Interview with the President: Jail Time for Those Without Health Insurance?

During an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Jake Tapper today, President Obama said that penalties are appropriate for people who try to “free ride” the health care system but stopped short of endorsing the threat of jail time for those who refuse to pay a fine for not having insurance.

“What I think is appropriate is that in the same way that everybody has to get auto insurance and if you don’t, you’re subject to some penalty, that in this situation, if you have the ability to buy insurance, it’s affordable and you choose not to do so, forcing you and me and everybody else to subsidize you, you know, there’s a thousand dollar hidden tax that families all across America are — are burdened by because of the fact that people don’t have health insurance, you know, there’s nothing wrong with a penalty.”

Under the House bill those who can afford to buy insurance and don’t’ pay a fine. If the refuse to pay that fine there’s a threat – as with a lot of tax fines – of jail time. The Senate removed that provision in the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. Obama said penalties have to be high enough for people to not game the system, but it’s also important to not be “so punitive” that people who are having a hard time find themselves suddenly worse off, thus why hardship exemptions have been built in the legislation. . . . (source)


  1. Susan L

    And who is going to define "ability to buy insurance?" What will they do about those who can't afford to pay? How is that different than now?This man gives me the creeps.

  2. Joe of St. Thérèse

    Violates the free will that we're supposed to have. Ugh one of the few people that scares me.

  3. Mike in CT

    AAAAHH! The irony! The irony! It's making my eyes bleed!

  4. LarryD

    I don't buy the comparison with auto insurance. If someone wishes to buy a car, then auto insurance is necessary. People who don't own cars aren't forced to buy auto insurance.People don't choose to get sick, break a leg, contract cancer or come down with diabetes. Health insurance doesn't ensure good health.I agree with Susan – the guy creeps me out.

  5. Chris

    Comparing mandatory health care coverage to auto insurance would more accurately require us to get full collision coverage, as well as auto repair insurance or an extended warranty. Alternatively, to make it equivalent, we should only have to have health liability insurance to cover injuries we give to other people.Auto insurance requirements only make *liability* insurance mandatory. The gov't doesn't care if we can fix our own wrecked car (although the bank might!) or get a rental while our car is in the shop. They also don't require you to be able to pay for a new transmission or an engine rebuild if your neglect wears them out prematurely. Agreeing that the gov't can require us to get health insurance is more like saying that it has an ownership intrest in our bodies.Put that way, I see Catholic-founded hospitals in a new light!

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