The federal government wants to require young, healthy people to buy insurance because if they don't, premiums for everyone else will go up. Insurance companies need low-maintenance, young customers on their rolls so they can raise money to cover benefits for less-healthy people the health care bill will require them to insure.
But both houses passed two other reforms that create an incentive not to buy insurance.
First, the bills allow patients to basically purchase insurance whenever they want.
"You can literally buy an insurance policy in the ambulance on the way to the hospital," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office. "You could imagine a situation in which you would pay the fines, stay out of the insurance pool, and at the moment when you need it, you go out and buy it."
The other disincentive is that both houses change how much older customers can be charged relative to younger customers. Analysts agree this will drive up the cost for young people, though it's not clear by how much.
The Senate tries to make it easier on the young by offering them a bare-bones insurance plan that would be less expensive than all the others. This is perhaps the keystone for the entire reform effort, because if young healthy people don't get into the insurance pool, everything else -- especially cost containment -- could fall apart.
Friday, January 8
Via CARPE DIEM