They’re pretty certain the provision will hold up against the onslaught of the Republicans and the Supreme Court, but just in case the unexpected happens, some Congressional Democrats are already making other preparations to replace the individual mandate.
One idea floating around is that of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). According to her plan, an open enrollment period will be offered where people can voluntarily buy insurance policy. After that period passes, anyone wishing to purchase insurance will incur a penalty, causing their policy to be considerably higher.
The idea is based on existing requirements, where once a year individuals get to choose their insurance policies that best suit their needs. After that period passes, they face an expensive alternative when the need to get insurance arises.
Derek Thompson of the Washington Posts explained it this way;
Let’s say I tell you at the beginning of flu season that you can buy Nyquil for a $2 discount today, but tomorrow the price will go up to $20 forever. What do you do? You stock up on Nyquil, of course! Note that I haven’t required that you do anything. I’ve just weighted the incentives to make you buy the medicine. It’s not a mandate, just an irresistible deal.
Although this plan sounds like a great idea, even Claire McCaskill have reservations. She explains, “the issue is will the research support that approach as workable to still allow us to cover people with pre-existing conditions.”
The advantage of the individual mandate meant that everyone had a responsibility to insure themselves, thus, bringing more money into the insurance industry eventually reflecting in lower premiums for individuals. It also allow for the coverage of pre-existing conditions because more people will be involved in the program. Mrs. McCaskill’s method raises questions about whether pre-existing conditions and other important aspects of the Health reform will be implemented if individuals choose not to participate.
As Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressed his concerns with this idea, saying that altering the mandate will weaken the bill. He said;
“You’d have to look at the specific proposals. The bottom line is that if you change the mandate, one of two things will happen: Many of the good things in the bill will not be there, such as pre-existing conditions, or premiums will go way, way up.”
The individual mandate is under attack by Republicans as unconstitutional, although when the idea was first floated in 1993 for then president George Bush, they were all in support of the idea. Mr. Mark Pauly, the original author of the now controversial idea said questioning the mandate’s constitutionality was never the issue when it was first introduced, saying;
“I don’t remember that being raised at all. The way it was viewed by the Congressional Budget Office in 1994 was, effectively, as a tax. You either paid the tax and got insurance that way or went and got it another way. So I’ve been surprised at that argument.”