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Heritage Foundation Proposed Individual Mandate in 1989 - Now Mocking It

by Alex Gauthier, published
More key provisions of the the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are slowly rolling into effect after being passed by the 111th Congress in 2010. Perhaps most controversial among them is the individual mandate.

The individual mandate, as associated by Obamacare, requires all U.S. citizens buy private health insurance or face a penalty, with some exemptions. Although Obama campaigned against the mandate during his 2008 campaign, the policy was ultimately added to the bill in order to ensure it passed.

The lineage of the individual mandate can be traced to page 51 of the Heritage Foundation's 1989 study and policy recommendation, "A National Health System for America." The nonpartisan, free-market focused, tax-exempt think tank recommended "a legal obligation on all families to obtain a minimum level of protection against healthcare costs."

The 1989 report was oddly prescient:

"Liberals have resisted the use of market mechanisms in their efforts... [Conservatives] too share the blame for today's problems. They so far have refused to recognize that some form of comprehensive health care system in America is politically inevitable... Refusing to recognize this, conservative law-makers generally have confined themselves to trying to block popular liberal proposals to extend a flawed system, rather than offering their own plan..."

In response to the looming implementation of the individual mandate, the Heritage Foundation sponsored this advertisement, mocking the law.

The ad titled 'Obamacare: More than a Glitch' capitalizes on the online insurance exchange's disastrous debut last week. Yet, it ignores the fact that millions of Americans can, in one form or another, avoid being covered as the individual mandate exists in its current form.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that once the mandate is completely implemented in 2016, 24 million non-elderly people will be exempt from the mandate's penalties while 30 million will still not have insurance.

This is either due to excessively low income, being a member of an American Indian tribe, their premium would exceed 8 percent of their income, hardship, or conflicts with their religious beliefs -- none of which are mentioned in the ad. Rather, it claims that to opt out you should, "start a multimillion dollar business, join a union, or run for Congress."

Undeniably, negative consequences have been seen during the phasing in of the Affordable Care Act; yet, apocalyptic claims remain exaggerated. Many hold the contention that the new health care regime won't make things much worse, but doesn't solve the long-term problems either.

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