In 2017, the United States Congress passed the controversial “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act,” which made major changes to the US health care industry by removing the Affordable Care Act‘s (ACA) individual mandate. This is the requirement for all Americans to have effective health insurance. This mandate was in place because the larger health insurance market is better served when everyone supports the system. Without the individual mandate, what will happen? In this article, we explore this question. Read on to learn more.
Will Everyone Be Negatively Impacted?
The first thing to understand is the fact that removal of the individual mandate will have a broad reaching ripple effect that will impact all Americans. Many are concerned an impact will come in the form of increased costs across the board.
According to the United States’ Congressional Budget Office (CBO) repeal of the individual mandate will have the effect of increasing health insurance premium costs overall by about ten percent. It will also add to the number of uninsured in America by about thirteen million additional people by the year 2027. However, given the fact that health insurance premiums skyrocketed under Obamacare, it is more likely they will drop after the mandate repeal has been put into effect. Under Obamacare, many insurers were finding it difficult to provide coverage. Some even wondered if big companies such as State Farm and others would be able to provide coverage.
Will Wasteful Medical Spending Increase Costing More Tax Dollars?
Uninsured Americans cost all Americans money. When people are uninsured, they must visit the emergency room for care because there is currently a federal law in place that requires emergency rooms to treat all presenting patients without regard to ability to pay or insurance status. However, the biggest abuses of insurance are often seen under federal programs, such as Medicare. A privatized system, based on the free market, does a better job of regulating itself, rather than big government, which is not known for looking out for the budget of the average American. When health care is free, people tend to abuse and over-use the privilege, driving costs up.
Currently, according to a study conducted by the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, about fifty percent of medical care in the US is provided by emergency rooms. Another study conducted by the New England Health Care Institute found that this overuse of emergency rooms for general care results in approximately $38 billion dollars in wasteful spending annually, with the individual mandate in place. Hardly a cost savings.
Preventative Screenings Will Decrease
In addition to promoting more efficient health care spending, good health care coverage also promotes a good doctor/patient relationship, which encourages proactive preventative care. This is important because good preventative care increases patient accountability.
When patients have regular contact with primary care providers, they tend to be more knowledgeable about their own health and how to take the best care of themselves. Regularly scheduled preventative screenings make early detection of treatable diseases possible. These screenings also help patients with chronic conditions manage them more effectively and affordably.
Will Chronic Illness & Avoidable Deaths Increase?
Under the ACA, preventative screenings must be covered by insurance. Without the individual mandate, millions more Americans will do without health insurance and valuable health screenings.
According to the US Surgeon General’s office, consistent, widespread, regular use of preventative screenings can save the United States nearly four-billion dollars in medical costs annually. Having preventative testing covered by all health insurance and having all Americans covered by health insurance makes this tremendous saving possible.
This is why the American Hospital Association went on record in support of the individual mandate in November of 2017. They signed onto a letter to Congress requesting that the individual mandate stay in place. The letter pointed out that repealing the mandate and leaving the insurance reforms of the ACA in place would not only cause many more Americans to become uninsured, but would also raise premium and co-pay prices for those who remained insured to such levels that they could not access these screenings even with insurance.
Doctors Will Work Harder For Less Successful Outcomes
Another advantage of regular screenings is that they make it easier for doctors and other health care professionals to provide top-notch care. The results of screenings ensure that doctors have complete files and information on patients. Without screenings, health care professionals may only see patients presenting with acute, serious health threats, which are much harder and more expensive to treat and have less successful outcomes.
It is easy to see that the individual mandate is an extremely important part of the structure of the ACA vision for an effective health care market. However, whether its removal will result in increases or decreases in overall health costs remains to be seen. Those who rallied around its removal and cheer on the dismantling of the ACA are betting on a change for the better.