Should the Government Encourage Individually Owned Health Insurance?

Significance

Advocates of individually mandated health insurance draw a parallel with automobile insurance, noting that nearly all states require motorists to carry auto insurance.

Benefits

Proponents of mandated individual health insurance claim it will lower health care costs, reduce expensive emergency room care, provide more care for the uninsured and prevent health care providers from shifting the costs of treating the uninsured to those with coverage.

Famous Ties

Massachusetts passed its mandate for health insurance under then-Governor Mitt Romney, who later ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Expert Insight

Advocates of individually owned health insurance claim that this will introduce market forces into health insurance and lower costs through competition.

Considerations

Encouraging individual health insurance may sound easy, but pitfalls exist. Government would not only have to determine what constitutes acceptable coverage, it also would have to monitor compliance and determine the penalties, if any, for non-compliance.

Problem

Mandated individual coverage represents an attempt to treat a symptom--that of uninsured individuals--while side-stepping the cause. Most people who lack insurance do so because of the high cost of premiums. In addition, many insurers will not cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. By most estimates, around 15 percent of Americans lack health insurance coverage. Most uninsured individuals who need medical care acquire it at hospital emergency rooms. This is one of the most expensive ways of providing medical care and increasing medical costs for all people, insured and uninsured alike.