by Bikna Huang
In March 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” The argument centered on the individual mandate provision, which (once implemented in 2014) would require every person to be covered by some sort of health insurance. The question for the Supreme Court to decide is whether Congress has the power to require millions of uninsured Americans to get health insurance.
According to many proponents of the law, including the Obama administration, Congress has the power to require the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause because the uninsured will still use health services which would have an impact on commerce. Opponents, however, argue that the individual mandate falls under the “general police powers,” which is only for states.
The government has argued that the individual mandate will reduce costs and lower premiums, which had been increasing at rates outpacing inflation for several years, because health insurance companies usually raise premium prices to cover unpaid expenses. However, many have argued that the individual mandate will increase premiums and the cost of health insurance. Jonathan Gruber, MIT economists, predicts that Obamacare would reduce costs for the young and the old and increase for adults in between.
Paul Clement, arguing in opposition to the individual mandate, stated that the individual mandate will cause insurance premiums to “skyrocket.” The argument proceeds that the proof is there, we have already seen increases in health insurance premiums since passage of the Affordable Care. However, as we noted, the individual mandate is still two years away, as it will not become effective until the law is fully implemented in 2014. Confronted with that fact, opponents argue that health insurance will increase even more then, which is at odds with a central goal of Obamacare, providing affordable health insurance. Of course, if the Obama Administration is correct and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for health insurance brings in a younger healthier pool who currently forgoes insurance because they are younger and healthier and thus have less need for medical care, then premiums will decrease. It will be interesting to see whether the individual mandate stands, and which side is correct about the cost, if it does. We at TheFactFile.com will be watching.
Bikna Huang is an intern with TheFactFile.com who studies at CalPoly in San Luis Obispo, California.