September 16, 2009

HARMING THE HEALTHY:

Mandated Health Insurance Squeezes Those in the Middle (VANESSA FUHRMANS, 9/16/09, WSJ)

All of the major health bills winding through Congress feature a so-called individual mandate similar to the one in Massachusetts. Mr. Obama supported the idea in his speech to Congress last week. Such a mandate, proponents argue, is necessary to keep premiums affordable: The healthy, who are relatively cheap to cover, help pay for the sick.

Subsidies for premiums would help low-income families gain coverage, while the prospect of fines would prod others to buy insurance.

But people like Mr. Norton show how difficult it could be to bring into the insurance pool the millions of consumers who make too much money to qualify for assistance, yet not enough to bear the full cost of new policies on their own.

Three years after Massachusetts's ambitious universal-coverage law went into effect, two-thirds of its previously 600,000 uninsured residents have coverage, according to state data. It has the lowest rate of uninsured in the country -- about 3% according to a state survey, compared with 15% nationwide. But the remainder -- many younger, male and fairly healthy -- has proved tougher to cover.

Costs to expand insurance coverage in the state are growing rapidly because of higher-than-expected enrollment in free and state-subsidized plans, and rising health-care costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2009 8:10 AM
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