latest on national health insurance mandate

MedSave Admin | March 27, 2009

The proposal to require everyone in the U.S. to carry health insurance took a small step forward. Today Reuters reports that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says a mandate is likely, despite Obama's stated opposition to the measure. Americans are split 50/50 on the issue according to numerous polls; many of these previously reported in this column. Massachusetts has already enacted a health insurance requirement and the measure has been successful in terms of expanding coverage. (Financially the program is not so successful as the state admits the current plan will finacially collapse in a few years as costs escalate unless major changes are made. No measures to stabilize the plan have yet been tested. In those respects, we cynically suggest that the MA health insurance plan is as successful as Medicare and Social Security!)

This mandated insurance option has long been on the table and it is no surprise that the insurance industry backs it. MedSave.com estimates that a federal law requiring health insurance would mean a 25% growth in total policies issued both from the uninsured as well as the under insured. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry group for the insurance companies, says that this measure would make it easy to allow full takeover of pre-existing conditions - a key political concession.

MedSave.com opposes the mandated health insurance plan based on the idyllic theory that health care should be part of the free market economy. Apparently we are now in the minority on this issue. We have also come to believe that a health insurance mandate is the only way we will acheve universal coverage. We have reported that a growing number of middle income Americans will not choose to spend any personal funds on health insurance under the current voluntary system. Even among those who are eligible for the 65% government subsidy for COBRA coverage, initial indications are that less than half will elect to keep their health insurance.

If we want to "raise the bar" on expanding health insurance, then more of us will need to kick into the coffers - either through additional taxes or a requirement to buy our own health insurance, or both. We expect that higher taxes are inevitable and that health insurance mandate is now more likely than not.

The ironic thing is that the proposed measures only add fuel to the real underlying issue in this crisis - the ridiculously high and escalating cost of health care in the U.S. It has been more than three decades since this was identified as a national crises (the past 22 years being covered by us). Yet lawmakers have not begun to tackle the real issue of health care costs in the private sector. Unless we curb health care costs, any measure to address insurance costs is meaningless.

Tags : health insurance, health care reform, health insurance mandate, presidential health care reform

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