The individual mandate is one of the most controversial features of Obamacare, so when it came out that the law makes no provision to enforce the mandate, many were nonplussed. Morgen Richmond, in the linked article, writes:
[W]ithout an effective mechanism of enforcing the individual mandate, the entire system is likely to collapse. (The individual mandate is the “third leg of the stool” as many a liberal has been pointing out for months.) Given that the bill also bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, WHY WOULD ANYONE OBTAIN INSURANCE COVERAGE PRIOR TO NEEDING IT? This was already going to be a problem with the relatively low cost of the penalty, but take away any meaningful enforcement of it and it is a complete and total joke.
The net result will be an ever increasing shift of healthcare costs on to those who remain in the insurance system (or to tax payers), and possibly even the bankruptcy of the insurance industry.
Hmm. Bug or feature? We report, you decide. A reader writes:
Absolutely essential and fundamental to the very design of the Obamacare bill is the individual mandate to require purchase of prescribed health insurance. And yet in what is an amazingly revealing feature of the bill there is literally no provision for enforcement of the mandate. While this has been known for some time — it was discussed a few weeks ago in NRO in the context of resistance or civil disobedience to the mandate — it is only now getting the exposure it deserves.
As the linked article makes clear, while the bill does provide for fines to enforce the mandate through the income tax system….the IRS is explicitly prevented from collecting the fines by assessments, liens or seizures, no civil or criminal penalties attach to failure to pay such fines and no interest accrues from the date the fine is due!! This is actually amazing and cries out for explanation.
In my view, this is not the result of a simple oversight or error…quite the contrary. This is a feature, not a bug. We can be sure of this because they had to go to the trouble of specifying that enforcement was prohibited; silence would have meant that the normal IRS enforcement powers were available and presumed to be used to ensure that the mandate legislated by Congress was carried out. Normally the simplest explanation would involve stupidity, incompetence, error, haste or some other ordinary failure. In this case I think the explanation has to be, since it was intentionally put in the bill, that the architects of Obamacare intend that the individual mandate will fail….and guarantee it by actually affirmatively prohibiting enforcement.
Why would they do this? One reason is that, despite all the confident left wing bluster, they may very well be afraid that, given the extraordinary implications for the vast expansion of government power, the Supreme Court may well find, as they should, such a mandate to be unconstitutional. [Ed.: Unlikely, in my view.] That would undermine the whole program and is a complication that the Obama administration I am sure would prefer to avoid. As well as avoiding nasty scenes of property seizures or wage garnishments lack of enforcement would also prevent an individual desiring to make a test case from having standing to sue. (Why the approach taken by the Attorney General in Virginia in relying for standing on conflict of state and federal laws is clever.)
The real reason, I suspect, is more insidious — quite simply to destroy the private health insurance industry and create an irresistible demand for expansion of the program to a public option and ultimately to single payer provision. It is undeniable that guaranteed issue of insurance at ordinary rates for those with preëxisting medical conditions is popular; but forcing insurance companies to cover them at average rates cannot possibly work unless healthy younger people are forced into the risk pool at rates higher than what their risk rating would otherwise be. Without the mandate, in other words, the insurance companies cannot possibly be viable and also cover preëxisting conditions at average premium rates.
Quite simply, Obamacare has created a ticking time bomb for the insurance industry. Those with preëxisting conditions will be covered…..and demand continuation of the coverage at prescribed rates….and those who ignore the mandate, presumably anybody at all affected by it, face no consequences. As costs spiral out of control, premiums will have to rise and subsidies increase. Insurance companies would have to either fold or shift costs….to those covered by employers….becoming a perfect target for left wing demagoguery and vilification. The only way out as more and more of those covered by employers get pushed into the exchanges as costs get shifted to them and employers no longer offer insurance — yet another intended consequence — is the public “option” or outright nationalization through a single payer plan.
We know that a single payer nationalized health care plan is the long term objective and intention for proponents of Obamacare and has been all along. They’re completely disingenuous about how “incremental” and “modest” the program is. The astonishing fact that they deliberately prohibited enforcement of a critical component of the plan tells you all you need to know. It will intentionally create a crisis…a feature, not a bug….and a crisis is something this crowd never wants to go to waste.