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Envisioning Health Care Reform's "Plan B"

09/16/11

  12:14:57 pm, by MedBen5   , 352 words,  
Categories: Health Plan Management

Envisioning Health Care Reform's "Plan B"

As the issue of whether or not the federal government can require most Americans to buy health insurance methodically plods its way through the judicial system to (one assumes) The Supreme Court, economic think tanks are pondering another question: If the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, then what’s the back-up plan?

Kaiser Health News asked a group of experts their ideas of how the Affordable Care Act could proceed without its most visible component. Here’s a small sampling of their responses (more are available at the Kaiser website):

Mark Pauly, PhD, health economist, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania: “[T]he way I would have done it… would be to say okay, we’re going to raise everybody’s taxes by the amount of the premium we want them to buy. But if you buy your insurance yourself, you don’t have to pay that tax. So, instead of it being… a law requiring you to do something compared to doing nothing – just because you are in existence, this would be just a tax break.”

Paul E. Starr, professor of sociology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University: “[T]he government could allow individuals to opt out of the new insurance system, without a penalty, by signing a form on their tax return acknowledging that they would then be ineligible for federal health insurance subsidies for a fixed period – say, five years. During that time, if they had second thoughts, they would have no guarantee that they could find a policy or that it would cover pre-existing conditions.”

Nina Owcharenko, director of health policy studies, Heritage Foundation: “The individual mandate depends on the “stick” approach to force people to buy health care coverage. A better solution would be to use the “carrot” approach of positive incentives to encourage people to buy coverage. Such incentives would include tax relief for people to buy and keep their own health insurance policies, and expansion of the coverage options available to individuals – including allowing them to purchase more affordable policies from other, more competitive state markets.”

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