Wednesday, February 14, 2018

About That Individual Mandate...

For the last few months we have been hearing President Trump touting his "repeal of the individual mandate" as a huge opportunity for people to not be penalized for going without health insurance. On the Democratic side Nancy, Chuck, and their minions have been scolding Republicans for kicking 13 million people off of insurance.

This game of rhetoric is confusing to the general public. Well, never fear, here at IB we are all about educating the public as to what the reality of the latest partisan divide actually means.

First, let's get the "people are going to die/kicked off insurance" fallacy out of the way.

Democrats were quick to point out that CBO is showing that in 2026 (8 years away!) 13 million more people will be uninsured through their scoring system. In telling the story democrats have used language that insinuates people are going to be kicked off of their plans. This is a blatant lie. 

The CBO report notes that 5 million people will drop off of Medicaid, 2 million will not stay on their employer sponsored plan, and 5 million people will not buy insurance in the individual market. Note that none of these people are being forced to lose insurance. Rather they are electing not to participate. That's a huge difference.

So, what is the truth about "repealing the individual mandate"?

Quite simply put, the mandate still exists. It's still in the law. What has changed is the penalty for not purchasing health insurance has been zeroed out in the new tax law. More important, the zero doesn't begin until 2019. So not only is the mandate alive it still has teeth (alright maybe only a single tooth) for this year. Here's the actual language from the tax bill Trump signed:


(a) In General.—Section 5000A(c) is amended—
(1) in paragraph (2)(B)(iii), by striking “2.5 percent” and inserting “Zero percent”, and

(2) in paragraph (3)—
(A) by striking “$695” in subparagraph (A) and inserting “$0”, and

(B) by striking subparagraph (D).

(b) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2018.

A swing in the political pendulum could bring the penalty for not having insurance back. Changes in congress could reopen these discussions. Striking "Zero percent" and inserting "2.5 percent" could happen. Republican's aren't telling you this.

Honesty is a lost attribute for politicians these days. Yet CNN, Fox News, and countless other media continue to promote what the inner beltway folks tell them as if it is gospel. This is why we are in the political environment we are today. Honesty doesn't get you reelected. And the best stories are the ones that are the most egregious.

Fortunately for IB readers, we aren't politicians or journalists. Instead we are insurance professionals. You know, the guys who politicians think are one step below ambulance chasers and one grade above used car salesman. 
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