Hillary Clinton has announced a new health care reform plan. Its centerpiece is an individual mandate - a law that would require every individual to buy health insurance. This is a truly bad idea, which Clinton has cribbed from Republicans like Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger (and, sad to say, even a few analysts who are generally friendly to free markets). I would bash the individual mandate here, but as it happens, I am ahead of the curve on this one: my article "Hazards of the Individual Health Care Mandate" appeared in the September/October issue of Cato Policy Report.
Something I don't mention in the article is why some free-market types support the individual mandate. In short, I think the reason is that they have given too little attention to the political dynamics of such a mandate, instead naively assuming that the mandate could be crafted once-and-for-all in a wise and lobbying-resistant fashion. The political incentives, including lobbying to expand the size of the "basic" benefits package and packaging of the individual mandate with other bad reform ideas, both figure prominently in the article. Notably, Clinton's new proposal contains at least two of those other bad reform ideas: employer mandates and community rating.