If Democrats want to avoid this headache, they could follow the recommendation of my American Prospect colleague Paul Starr. Instead of fining those who go without insurance, Starr has proposed that "For five years they would become ineligible for federal subsidies for health insurance and, if they did buy coverage, no insurer would have to cover a pre-existing condition of theirs." They would not be fined for avoiding the new system, but neither could they benefit from or exploit it. This period of ineligibility, Starr adds, "deters opportunistic switches in and out of the public funds, and it helps to prevent the private insurers from cherry-picking healthy people and driving up insurance costs in the public sector."
Of course you can generalize that idea just a bit further.
I hadn't known the Senate version of the bill has a fine of only $95 for the first year; somehow I had thought it was $200 or so. (As Jeff Ely indicated, who said there's no public option?) How, politically, will the fine be amended? Will the Democrats call for change, the Republicans will cynically oppse it, and what? What if the Republicans run at least one house of Congress? Will they be willing to improve the operation of the program? Why should anyone sign up?