Insurance mandate helps keep costs down for everyone, the sick and the healthy

Mandate. It might mean we have to be present in class, be at a meeting or be somewhere at a certain time. There’s something determined and angry about the word that seems to cut at our sense of liberty. Why can’t I eat Cheetos and watch re-runs of Punk’d right now?

We don’t like being told what to do. And we certainly don’t like being forced to do anything.

The 26 states opposing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) say the individual mandate is doing just that.

The individual mandate is the requirement that all individuals who can afford health care insurance buy some kind of minimal insurance policy. People who can afford health care insurance are considered those “for whom the minimum policy will not cost more than 8 percent of their monthly income, and who make more than the poverty line,” explains Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.

In other words, if the cheapest health insurance is costing you more than 8 percent of your monthly income or you have little to no income, then you don’t have to worry about all the fuss on the hill this week. To be clear, if your income is that low you’re probably getting government subsidies that support some kind of health care for your family.

So, what’s the legal question here? Opponents of the mandate are challenging whether regulation of the health care market is a power allotted to Congress under the Commerce Clause. The Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate interstate activity. Opponents are saying that the choice not to buy health care is “economic inactivity” and thus can’t be constituted as behavior the government can regulate.

Supporters of the bill say the choice not to buy health insurance has serious economic consequences and therefore has a very real effect on interstate commerce. The decision not to buy coverage just shifts the cost burden to other people. A primary example might be emergency room visits, which have to be paid for by the hospital or tax payers, Klein said.

Mandate isn’t a pleasant word, I agree. However, in this case, the mandate was designed so that everyone can pay into a service they will need at some point in their lives.

If you don’t mandate insurance, sick people will be the only ones buying it, causing premiums to skyrocket and driving health care costs up considerably. The mandate requires both the sick and the healthy to buy in so that the costs can stay low for everyone.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr, who is representing the government in court this week, said that everyone will seek health care during their lifetime, the government is just regulating when they have to buy it.

That argument didn’t go over so well with the Court on Tuesday.

Chief Justice Roberts asked if you could make people buy cell phones because one day they might need to make a 911 call.

Justice Antonin Scalia said that everybody needs to eat. So, can you make people buy broccoli if you make them buy health insurance?

They asked some difficult questions, perhaps simplifying the concept of the mandate to a point that ignores the context.

If someone didn’t have a cell phone, no one is going to have to bear the burden of the costs for someone not having one.

If someone needs health care badly, they will go to the emergency room. They will get care, and somebody will pay for it.

It’s hard to simplify the health care mandate to these kinds of questions. People need health care, and they’ll get it one way or another.

The thing is, they should be able to get it too. We all deserve access to health care when we need it, and the mandate can only help us there.

Not only does it mean more people have access to care, but it shifts the cost burden as well.

At the end of the day, those are both good things.

_Nishat is a senior in LAS._