NC HEALTH REPORT: Policy Brief on Individual Mandate/Responsibility Requirement

February 2, 2011
Editors: Adam Searing and Adam Linker

Brief: Health Care Reform: The individual mandate will make insurance fairer and more affordable.

My neighbor’s house accidentally catches fire and the flames are starting to lick at my roof and chimney. Everyone’s safely out and the fire department is on the way but it still looks bad. Even worse, I gave up paying my house insurance premium a few years ago because I wanted the money for a vacation. “No problem,” I think and quickly call my insurance agent. “I’d like to cover my house again,” I shout into the phone. “I’ll pay the standard premium right now! Here’s my credit card number.” Five minutes later I’m covered and can relax as the fire really starts in on the living room.

Ridiculous? Irresponsible? Yet that is exactly what the GOP members of the North Carolina General Assembly are doing today by passing a bill that supposedly exempts North Carolinians from the federal Affordable Care Act’s requirement that starting in 2014 those who can afford to buy health insurance and don’t meet religious or other exemptions must purchase coverage. 

The GOP – like everyone else – says they support the new federal health care law’s requirement banning insurance companies charging people more or denying health coverage to those who have pre-existing health conditions. Yet you can’t require insurance companies to do that and not require that everyone who can afford to – even healthy people – must buy coverage before they get sick.  It would be a ridiculous situation just like in the “house on fire” example above.

If the NC GOP gets its way, then the health insurance system simply wouldn’t work and premiums would skyrocket for those being responsible and buying health coverage before they got sick. In fact, that’s exactly what’s happened in states that tried to ban pre-existing condition charges and exclusions without requiring everyone to buy coverage.

Want to know more? Check out Adam Linker’s new policy brief:

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