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Health Insurance 'Mandate' Deemed Best Value for Money

THURSDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Doing away with the U.S. health care reform act's requirement that all Americans must have health insurance would not dramatically increase the cost of buying policies through new insurance exchanges, but would significantly reduce the number of people who get insurance, according to researchers.

The findings from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, are based on estimates created using a computer model. The investigators found that eliminating the so-called "individual mandate" would increase a person's cost of buying insurance by 2.4 percent and reduce the number of Americans who would get new health coverage in 2016 from 27 million to 15 million.

"Our analysis suggests eliminating the individual mandate would sharply decrease coverage, but it would not send premiums into a 'death spiral' that would make health insurance unaffordable to those who do not qualify for government subsidies," study lead author Christine Eibner, an economist at RAND, said in a news release from the organization.

The analysis also found that repealing the individual mandate would greatly increase the amount of government spending for each person newly enrolled in a health insurance plan. The cost would more than double, to $7,468 per person.

"The individual mandate is critical not only to achieving near-universal health care coverage among Americans, but also to yielding a high value in terms of federal spending to expand coverage," Eibner said. "Without the individual mandate, the government would have to spend more overall to insure a lot fewer people."

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in March about the constitutionality of requiring all Americans to obtain health insurance.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explains how to get good value when choosing a health plan.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: RAND Corporation, news release, Feb. 15, 2012

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