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January 22, 2010
Political pundits are saying that the upset Massachusetts election of Scott Brown to fill Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat is in large part due to anger about the process of health reform: secretive, heavy handed, and peppered with grubby and unfair deals. But I wager that this has obscured the many details of the actual product the public would have to live with. As Congress takes a deep breath and reconsiders the expansive 2,700-page bill passed by the Senate on December 24 and promoted as the one that could be pushed through the House and onto the president's desk unchanged, the rest of us might want to take a closer read, too. Flip through the bill, and get a sense of just what it entails. Here are a few of the many items that pop out and are worthy of some public airing.
1. The Internal Revenue Service would be the health-reform enforcer. Once the government requires everyone to have health insurance, the IRS would move in as the monitor, proactively checking to be sure that the health insurance plans you and 300 million other Americans carry are acceptable to the secretary of health and human services. If you flunked, the IRS would impose a fine for every month you'd been lacking and use its ferocious tax-collecting skills—theoretically including the threat of jail time—to make sure you paid up.