NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 5, 2007

Individual health insurance mandates, such as the Massachusetts plan, cross an important line: accepting the principle that it is the government's responsibility to assure that every American has health insurance, says Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute.

These mandates represent a significant infringement on individual liberty and decision-making, says Tanner.  For the first time, a citizen of a state -- simply by virtue of living there -- would be required to purchase a specific government-designed product.

Further, mandates open the door to more widespread regulation of the health-care industry and political interference in personal health-care decisions, says Tanner:

  • The government will have to define what constitutes "insurance;" whatever the initial minimum benefits package consists of, special interests groups can certainly be expected to lobby for the inclusion of additional services or coverage under any mandated benefits package.
  • As more benefits are added, the cost of the mandate would increase; since consumers would have little or no leverage over insurers (they will no longer be allowed to refuse to buy the product), they can eventually be expected to turn to the government for relief.
  • The state would be forced to either increase subsidies or cap premiums; chasing ever-higher costs with ever greater subsidies would bankrupt the state and capping premiums would ultimately lead to rationing health-care goods and services.

An individual mandate, therefore, should not be seen in a vacuum.  It is more akin to the first in a series of dominoes, says Tanner.  By distorting the health-care marketplace, an individual mandate sets in place a cascading series of additional mandates and regulations resulting, ultimately, in a government-run health-care system.  For the vast majority, that would mean longer waits, higher prices and less care.

Source: Michael Tanner, "It's an infringement on individual liberty," Des Moines Register, March 5, 2007.


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