Posted on 28 March 2012
By Mark Miller
Americans don’t like the individual mandate – the requirement that most of us buy health insurance under the Obama Administration’s health reform law.
Most Americans also don’t like paying taxes, but they are the price we pay to live in a civil society. So, setting aside the Constitutional questions being argued before the Supreme Court this week, let’s ask: what will we get in return if the high court upholds the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and nearly all of us are required to buy health insurance? Who are the biggest winners, and who wouldn’t get covered if the law is struck down?
Americans are evenly divided on the ACA. Forty-seven percent support the law, according to Pew Research, and a New York Times/CBS News poll finds that many of the law’s key provisions are supported by wide margins, including the requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions (85 percent), letting children stay on parents’ policies to age 26 (68 percent) and cutting the cost of prescription drugs for seniors (77 percent).
The individual mandate is the secret sauce that makes it possible to extend near-universal coverage at affordable rates. Yet a Kaiser Family Foundation survey this month finds 66 percent oppose the mandate.
The gap, I think, stems from the simple fact that key benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won’t be implemented until 2014. But significant benefits already have arrived. For example, the provision allowing kids to stay on parents’ policies has allowed 2.5 million young adults age 19-25 to gain insurance. In Medicare, the first steps to close the gap in prescription drug coverage – the notorious donut hole – saved $2.1 billion for nearly 3.6 million seniors last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“It’s been a huge problem,” says Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “We get so many chronically ill seniors calling our hot line in desperation,” They are splitting pills, skipping doses or just going without their medications – all the things that the prescription drug program was designed to prevent.”
The big reforms come in 2014, alongside implementation of the individual mandate. Learn more about what’s at stake, and who stands to lose most if the ACA is struck down by the Supreme Court, at Reuters Money.