The Corner

Repealing the Individual Mandate Is a Terrible Idea

According to the Washington Post, John Boehner “has proposed repealing provisions of Obama’s health care law, including the requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance after 2014.”

While the individual mandate is one of the very worst features of Obamacare, repealing it while leaving the rest of the law intact would be disastrous.

First, it would totally destabilize the private insurance market. The Obamacare individual mandate is relatively weak, as mandates go; but repealing it, while maintaining the law’s requirements that insurers take all comers regardless of age or health, will drive insurers out of business, in what economists call the “adverse selection death spiral.”

Second, the aforementioned destruction of the private insurance market will rightly be blamed on Republicans, who will no longer be able to entirely pin insurance disruptions on the other side. This matters for more than just tactics: if Republicans are to put forth a positive agenda for health reform, they need to build credibility with voters that their reforms will make health care better.

Third, repealing the mandate will deprive the Supreme Court of the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of the provision, and on the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. While the Supremes may decide to uphold the mandate, it is also possible that they will use the opportunity to rule on the mandate to finally install some constraints on Congress’s exploitation of the Commerce Clause. This has significant long-term implications for the cause of limited government.

— Avik Roy is a health care analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. and a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute. He blogs on health-care policy at The Apothecary. You can follow him on Twitter at @aviksaroy.

Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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