The Magazine

No Mandate

Oct 21, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 07 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

In response to these Obama-initiated developments, Republicans passed legislation on September 30 that would fund the federal government in the new fiscal year, delay the individual mandate for a year, and end the illegal congressional carve-out. Senate Democrats and Obama have subsequently refused to negotiate, and Obama insists he “will not negotiate” over the debt ceiling.

In the meantime, the Obamacare exchanges opened on October 1 with an embarrassing clunk. So the Democrats are requiring Americans to buy insurance that the Obama administration isn’t prepared to sell.

Polling by Rasmussen Reports indicates that Americans favor a delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate by 56 to 26 percent. A poll conducted by GEB International for Independent Women’s Voice says that Americans oppose preferential treatment for Congress under Obamacare by 94 to 4 percent. Meanwhile, CBS polling shows that only 23 percent of Americans agree with Obama that the debt ceiling should be “raised without conditions,” while 75 percent think it should either be raised in connection with spending cuts or else not raised at all.

In light of all this, why won’t Obama and the Democrats go along with the Republicans’ rather moderate proposal, or at least negotiate in response to it? The answer is that much of Obamacare cannot function without the individual mandate​—​its coercive core. Accordingly, Obama and his fellow Democrats think that even a one-year delay would be too dangerous​—​because it might open the door to further delays, and to further questioning of the whole structure of Obamacare.

The administration has been clear about this in the past. Here’s what Stephanie Cutter once wrote on the White House blog:

The Affordable Care Act .  .  . bans insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. However, unless every American is required to have insurance, it would be cost prohibitive to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Here’s why: If insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to anyone who applies for insurance​—​especially those who have health problems and are potentially more expensive to cover​—​then there is nothing stopping someone from waiting until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies can’t say no. That would lead to double digit premiums increases​—​up to 20%​—​for everyone with insurance, and would significantly increase the cost [of] health care spending nationwide. We don’t let people wait until after they’ve been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don’t want to do that with healthcare. If we’re going to outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the only way to keep people from gaming the system and raising costs on everyone else is to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own health insurance.

In other words, the individual mandate is one piece of Obamacare that can’t be removed. Without it​—​by the administration’s own admission​—​Obamacare would become “cost prohibitive.”

This means Americans ultimately have two choices: learn to live with the unprecedented mandate, or repeal Obama-care. The individual mandate is Obamacare’s cornerstone, and Obama is desperate to put it in place. That’s why Republicans should keep pushing as hard as they can to fend it off.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers