By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
Much of the news from the Congressional battlefront in Washington this week was that Senate Republicans intend to repeal the Obama individual mandate to purchase health insurance, as part of their tax reform bill.
The individual mandate was a crucial feature of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama after its passage by Democratic House and Senate. If you aren’t otherwise covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or government-approved employer-sponsored health insurance, and you don’t buy an overpriced government-defined health plan on an Obamacare exchange, you are hit with a tax starting at $695 and running up over $1,300 depending on your income.
The crucial rationale for the individual mandate/tax was that somebody had to subsidize the premiums of older sicker people. That “somebody” was young healthy people who, faced with exorbitant premiums to pay for somebody else’s coverage, would logically walk away from the insurance market altogether.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that scrapping the unpopular mandate/tax will result in $338 billion in savings in Exchange subsidies over ten years, because the pool of people eligible for subsidies will be much smaller without the Obamacare gun to their heads.
Democrats howl that the people who no longer have to pay a tax for not buying insurance they don’t want will become uninsured. Certainly many young “invincibles” will do that. Many will also buy less expensive unsubsidized insurance that Obamacare has banned from the Exchanges, and pay for at least part of it from the income tax reductions of the overall tax bill.
This is a complicated issue, but one thing is clear to us. For the U.S. government to force Americans to buy government-prescribed insurance priced to subsidize other people, or face a penalty, is an unprecedented invasion of liberty.
The individual mandate should never have been enacted. It richly deserves to be repealed. Then Congress can get on with sorting out the rest of the Obamacare mess, and putting sound, defensible provisions in its place.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.