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doctor-2U.S. Senate leaders can’t be serious about proposed penalties against those who don’t buy insurance under their health care reform proposal. It is so low that if this provision survives, it almost assures the death of the private health insurance market.

Under the Senate bill, most would be required to buy health insurance. But the penalty for opting out, so to speak, would be ridiculously low–starting at $95 in 2014 and rising to $750 in 2016, with a maximum of $2,250 for a family.

This is the fatal flaw of the reform bill. If you ban insurers from rejecting those with preexisting conditions, yet set so low a pain threshold for those who refuse to buy coverage, it means many people will simply avoid getting insurance until they become seriously ill.

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