Are you ready for Obamacare's 'Mandate Plus?'
Not a bug - a feature.
The individual mandate penalties will be pretty weak as they are phased in over two years - only $95 when they start in 2014, much less than it costs to buy insurance. And yet, everyone with pre-existing conditions will have to be accepted for coverage right away.
That's why insurance companies are telling the administration the mandate won't be enough for the first two years. They want more incentives - such as a late enrollment fee - to get healthy people to sign up quickly. Without getting the healthy folks in, the fear is that everyone's health insurance premiums could shoot through the roof when all those sick people get their coverage.
The idea is being called "mandate plus" - because some of the ideas were floated by health experts last year as replacements, in case the Supreme Court struck the mandate down. Now that the mandate is here to stay, insurance companies and some policy experts say the other ideas should go hand in hand with the coverage requirement to make the whole system work - and be affordable.
The states could impose some of these incentives, too, and they could become a future lobbying battleground. But right now, the insurers are focused on persuading the Department of Health and Human Services to add them on its own.
What do you suppose is going to happen when Medicaid expansion dumps 15 million new patients on to the health care system? Millions will be clamoring for their "free" health care. Meanwhile, healthy "young invincibles" will opt out and choose to pay the fine rather than thousands of dollars in health insurance costs.
There will also be a million or so patients with pre-existing conditions who will also vie for health care resources. Insurance companies will be forced to cover them and the cost of a policy will skyrocket even higher than they are today (some insurers have raised their rates 20% or more recently.).
It is a recipe for confusion, chaos, and disaster. Smacking consumers with additional penalties (taxes) like late fees for enrollment is just one more indication that this poorly thought out, imprudent, monstrosity of a law will be too expensive, too intrusive, and too complicated to do what it says it will do; bring down costs and improve the quality of care.