The individual mandate is the most controversial part of the health care law, despite the fact that several top Republicans once supported it. But a new report indicates that its impact will be less far-reaching than opponents have claimed.
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study last month examining how many people would have to buy health insurance or pay a penalty under the mandate. In addition to Americans who already have insurance through their employer or other means, who would not be affected, the foundation also noted that the law offers a variety of exemptions for people facing hardships:
The mandate’s exemptions cover a variety of people, including: members of certain religious groups and Native American tribes; undocumented immigrants (who are not eligible for health insurance subsidies under the law); incarcerated individuals; people whose incomes are so low they don’t have to file taxes (currently $9,500 for individuals and $19,000 for married couples); and people for whom health insurance is considered unaffordable (where insurance premiums after employer contributions and federal subsidies exceed 8% of family income).
In simulations prepared for Kaiser, Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that about 40% of those who would be uninsured in the absence of the ACA would be exempt from the mandate. That means almost 9 in 10 non-elderly people would either satisfy the mandate automatically or be exempt from it.
While some polls show opposition to the mandate, most people support it when they learn that coverage offered by their employer would satisfy the requirement. Studies also indicate that an overwhelming majority would rather comply with the individual mandate and purchase insurance than pay the far less onerous penalty for forgoing it.