Effect of Repealing the Individual Mandate

February 17, 2011 in Affordable Health Insurance, Employer Sponsored Plans, Grandfathered Health Plans, Group Health Plans, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance Exchange, Health Insurance Reform, Individual Health Insurance, Specialists

Effect of Repealing the Individual Mandate

By Ashley Ahle
February 17th, 2011

Deeming the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional has caused many people to question the need for it. As I have said in past posts, an individual mandate is necessary for the PPACA to be successful. Without it or something similar, the Health Care Reform would fail. That said, how can the individual mandate be altered to fit the needs of those fighting for repeal? And by piecing apart the PPACA, what will the costs be to the government and will a repeal actually solve anything?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, they estimate that a repeal of the mandate would bring in roughly $202 billion dollars between 2014 and 2019, while at the same time increasing the number of uninsured by 16 million people. It would also reduce the number of people on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by 6-7 million people; individual coverage by 5 million and employee sponsored coverage by 4-5 million people. The question is, then, is saving that $202 billion dollars more beneficial to the people of the country?

Alternatives to the mandate are out there, however people voting to repeal all of the Reform are unwilling to present these options due to the fear that they may actually strengthen the PPACA. Since the reform will fail without a mandate, there needs to be something in place that is strong enough to discourage people from buying coverage only when they are sick. Reform will prohibit risk adjustments from being made individually. Instead there will be a community rating; this is a way to calculate premiums by evaluating the risk factors of all persons in the market, instead of evaluating it individually like it is done now.

Under this community rating, it makes it so healthy and sick people pay virtually the same amount in premiums. If there were a repeal of the mandate, health costs would rise to such a crushing rate that we may face another government bailout like that of the auto industry. The aim in repealing the mandate is to lessen the government’s involvement and this would run the risk of increasing it.

Other options to the mandate that have been kicked around include the possibility of a small tax, limiting enrollment to once every two years, penalizing people who wait, and implementing a five year lock-out. The small tax would be set close to the amount proposed for the penalty. For people who go uninsured this would be a tax they would pay at the end of the year and for people who can prove credible coverage this would be a tax credit at the end of the year. The reason that Democratic politico’s didn’t propose this originally is because of the political fight over taxes that would ensue.

Limiting enrollment to once every two years would disable people who decide to go uninsured from buying coverage only when they are sick. It would act as a buffer, similar to the enrollment periods for Medicare. Penalizing people who wait for coverage is similar to the penalty on Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. It would implement higher premiums for those who decided to wait. The five year lock out would prevent people who go without coverage, access to government subsidies and insurance protections for five years. Even if they wanted to buy coverage in the first place.

Here the problem lies with Congress. There has to be a middle ground at this point, that both Republicans and Democrats can meet. The way things are progressing, that ground may continue to elude all parties. Republican’s and Democrats fighting for a repeal will not vote for alternatives to the individual mandate because they don’t want reform at all, and those alternatives may actually strengthen the PPACA. If we all, in fact want the same thing, a system with lower costs and near universal care, there has to be compromise. Otherwise the amount of money wasted on arguing all facets of Reform will outweigh the benefits.

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