NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The End of the "Individual Mandate" Is Not the End of ObamaCare

January 17, 2011

U.S. District judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the interstate commerce clause has no power to compel individuals to buy policies from private health insurers.  Unfortunately, Judge Hudson also found that this clause was severable from the legislation, leaving the rest of ObamaCare intact.  Despite this outcome, many believe that the elimination of the individual mandate must lead to the downfall of ObamaCare, says John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute. 

But the individual mandate is really just a marketing gimmick to sell the erroneous notion that "universal" coverage has something to do with individual responsibility.  The argument goes, "If you get hurt and go to the hospital, why should taxpayers be forced to shoulder your bills?"  The argument was successfully used in Massachusetts, where former Governor Romney's 2006 "reform" was the forerunner of ObamaCare.  According to media myth, the individual mandate has been critical to the Massachusetts law's so-called "success," says Graham.

  • The mandate is a myth because it is not enforced on most of the uninsured.
  • According to Massachusetts' 2008 report on the uninsured only 17 percent of the 150,000 residents who reported being uninsured for the entire year were assessed a penalty.
  • Only 35 percent of the 71,000 who were uninsured part of the year were assessed a penalty.

It is politically and economically ridiculous to think that the government can assess a financial penalty on people who cannot reasonably afford overpriced health insurance.  The Massachusetts health reform was little more than a huge ramping up of subsidies, entailing a significant increase in political control of people's access to medical care.  ObamaCare will impose similar outcomes -- with or without an individual mandate, says Graham.

Source: John R. Graham, "The End of the 'Individual Mandate' Is Not the End of ObamaCare," Pacific Research Institute, January 5, 2011.


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