The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) next week with a decision expected in June. While there are many aspects of the law I dislike, it is the individual mandate -- requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine -- that must be kept intact.
As a Libertarian at heart, I was vehemently opposed to such a provision up until the last few months. Who is the federal government to tell us who must buy something we may or may not need or want for that matter. However, after reading dozens of articles for and against the law, my opinion has changed on the mandate issue for a selfish reason alone. Without it, it is very likely I will lose the individual insurance plan I currently depend on for doctor visits and costly prescription drugs.
On March 20, the Dallas Morning News analyzed the implications of the high court’s ruling. They looked at what would happen if the law was upheld in its entirety, struck down and everything in between. The paper concluded that if the individual mandate is thrown out, ALL health insurance premiums will continue to soar as they have been doing in recent years because there are too few healthy Americans with insurance that can subsidize the high risk and sick pool of patients who are covered. So in order to continue to pay for and provide coverage for this growing population of patients, the dollars will come in the form of high monthly premiums and deductables from healthy folks.
Without a mandate, economic and healthcare experts suggest that insurance companies would have to increase the premiums individuals pay 10-30 percent or stop offering these plans entirely. I have one of these plans right now as a self-employed small businesses owner. I got to choose from about 50 different competative plans. What will I do if these companies can no longer afford to offer so many plans? Well, my credit cards are maxed, I'm not even close to qualifying for Medicare and I don’t have enough disposable income to cover even the bare essentials of care so all I can think of is to get on Medicaid. Guess who pays into that? We all do.
Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT, told the Dallas Morning News, “Without a mandate the law is a lot less effective. The market will not collapse, but it will be a ton more expensive and cover many fewer people.” I will be one of those people.
The insurance companies even favor the individual mandate primarily because there will be a larger pool of customers to divide up the costs; when everyone pays something into the system, premiums will stabilize.
Many of you with employer-provided insurance will have to pay more into your group plan too because health insurers simply won’t be able to cover patients who suffer from cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and the list goes on and will continue to grow as the baby boomers age.
ObamaCare is not perfect. Many of the burdensome, bureaucratic requirements must be streamlined. And I certainly don’t want to pay for someone else’s care who isn’t paying a dime into the system. That said, the transformation has only just begun. The law has already covered 2.5 million more young people ages 21-26 at no cost to taxpayers (DallasNews.com 3/21/12) and millions more under various other provisions such as the "Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan". Our modern society already benefits from mandates in other parts of our lives. Auto insurance is just one example.
If the healthcare mandate is struck down, I’ll be turning to you, dear taxpayers, to cover my healthcare costs. I've already started saving what little I can, but I hope you're saving too. :)