Eliminating Individual Mandate Would Come With Strings

Margaret Dick Tocknell, January 18, 2012

With Supreme Court challenges to the individual mandate filed, arguments scheduled to be heard March, and a final decision expected sometime this summer, it seems like a good time to step back and assess what the loss of the individual mandate could mean for health insurance premiums, coverage, and uncompensated care.

That's precisely the analysis applied in a January report from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. You may have seen some news stories about the report. The headlines have referenced how premiums could increase by 25% without the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act mandate.

That's certainly eye-catching, but it's only part of the story. A look at some of the other numbers included in the report helps put into perspective why there is so much opposition to healthcare reform and the individual mandate. Here's a hint: Government and employer spending will increase.

With the individual mandate in place, spending will increase because more people will have coverage. But if you're opposed to healthcare reform, you'll focus on the $98 billion increase in government and employer spending and gloss over the estimated 24 million formerly uninsured who will now have health insurance coverage.

Researchers at RWJF compared healthcare spending and enrollment under four ACA scenarios, one with the individual mandate and three without. Here's a look at some of the numbers:

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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