Terence P. Jeffrey
March 27, 2012
President Barack Obama has justified the mandate in his health-care law that requires individuals to buy health insurance by arguing that it will eliminate free riders—that is, people who get health care (often from emergency rooms) but, lacking insurance, never pay anything back into the health-care system.
“So that’s why the individual mandate’s important,” Obama explained in a speech on Aug. 15, 2011.
“Because the basic theory is, look, everybody here at some point or another is going to need medical care, and you can’t be a free-rider on everybody else,” said Obama. “You can’t not have health insurance, then go to the emergency room, and each of us, who’ve don the responsible thing and have health insurance, suddenly we now have to pay the premiums for you. That’s not fair. So, if you can afford it, you should get health insurance just like you get car insurance.”
However, in the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Samuel Alito forced President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, to admit that under Obamacare these free riders will not be eliminated despite the individual mandate.
For an elite group—including people eligible for Medicaid who don’t sign up for it and people whose health care expenses exceed 8 percent of their income—the Obamacare mandate is no mandate and the penalty is neither a penalty nor a tax because they are not required to pay it, period.