The Untested Assumption Regarding the Individual Mandate

In discussions surrounding the Affordable Care Act, some have suggested that healthy people will not get insurance without an individual mandate.  However, that assumption has never been tested and is contradicted by observable phenomena.

Healthy people know that accidents, natural disasters, and violence hit healthy people too.  If you talk to uninsured people why they are uninsured the overwhelming answers you hear is ‘because I can’t get it’ and ‘because I can’t afford it’.  You don’t hear ‘because I am healthy’.

If young healthy people did not care about medical insurance then they would not be interested in having it be part of a job benefits package. They would be saying things like ‘yeah, this job has no medical plan but I am healthy so no big deal’. I have never heard anybody say that.  I have heard them say ‘the only thing keeping me here is the medical plan’.

If young healthy people did not worry about having medical coverage then the part of Obamacare that allowed them to stay a part of their parents’ family coverage to a later age would have been unutilized rather than the one early feature of the program that has affected the most people.

If insurance is affordable and accessible, healthy people will buy it.  For those willing to gamble on going without coverage, an application waiting period of a few weeks would likely be enough to dissuade them from waiting until they are sick. A couple of weeks of hospitalization costs after an accident is a pretty substantial financial risk.

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