A federal judge put a cloud over this year's health care reform legislation by ruling last week that a key provision – the individual mandate to buy insurance – was unconstitutional. But the judge declared the mandate “severable” from the rest of the law, meaning that everything else could continue.
That could create disastrous results for the federal budget, warns Joshua Gordon, The Concord Coalition’s policy director. The individual mandate, he explains in a blog posting, “is a crucial leg in the stool of the expanded coverage provisions” of the law.
The law prohibits insurers from discriminating against sick people who want to buy health insurance. So without the individual mandate, many would have an incentive to game the system by refusing to buy insurance until they become ill. Insurance companies would be forced to raise premiums dramatically, Gordon says, and government spending on insurance subsidies “would skyrocket.”
If the ruling ultimately stands, Congress would need to take action -- ideally, including strong new health care cost-control measures.