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Don't break a leg doing the happy dance

Date: 2017-Dec-30           Author: Barry Shatzman

So... the new tax law for 2018 essentially gets rid of the mandate - that pesky requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that most people have health care insurance.

Doing the happy dance? I get it. Not many people like being made to do something. And besides... you still can buy all the insurance you want. But if you don't want to, starting in 2019 you won't have to.

But seriously... why wouldn't you want to?

Sure, it's an expense. Not many people like expenses either. But if you make less than 4 times the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the government pays a big part of your premium. If you make less than 2-1/2 times the FPL, the government pays for almost all of your premium and most of your deductibles and copays.

But what if you or a family member have a stroke? Or catch a cancer? You better have a few million stashed away if you plan on living long enough to see the New York Jets win another Super Bowl*.

Sometimes you're off the hook. If a broken bone or infected cat bite sends you to the emergency room and you can't afford it, you'll still get treated. The government will pay for it. But you don't want a taxpayer handout, do you? Oh, never mind. The tax cuts mean less money for the government, so maybe you won't get treated.

So let's get real. I know insurance may not be cheap, but i also know you're smart enough to buy it. So in that sense, the mandate really doesn't affect you, does it?

Yeah, it does.

For one thing, most people who eschew insurance would be those least likely to need it. That means insurance companies still would pay out the same in benefits. They just would have fewer customers to provide the money. That means higher premiums. Maybe high enough that you - even with your health concerns - will give up insurance too. Seeing a vicious cycle here? The Congressional Budget Office estimates there'll be 13 million fewer people insured without the mandate.

Now one more thing. I get your sense of fairness. You're fine buying insurance, but why should a young person who likely won't be having a heart attack this year have to buy it just to keep prices down for me and you? So riddle me this... what's gonna happen when they're older and there aren't young people to keep prices for them stable? So not only does the mandate cover them in case they do need health care... but at the end of the day it's probably gonna end up costing them about the same anyway.

So... still dancing? Can i suggest a safe waltz?

* Sorry... bad example using the Jets. No health plan is going to make you live another hundred years.

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