The insurance mandate: They hate it, they love it

The Supreme Court this week heard arguments for and against the constitutionality of the mandate that nearly everyone get health insurance. The mandate, included in the health reform law, has been described as critical to the economic viability of insurance reforms designed to make health plans more affordable and accessible. You can read a quick summary of that economic argument here.

For more complete coverage of the Supreme Court arguments, check out reporting by my colleague Joe Carlson here, here and here .

The fate of the mandate may rest on its constitutional merits, (unless the court decides it cannot hear the case yet), yet the Kaiser Family Foundation reported this week that public objections to the requirement hinges more on the cost of insurance. About two-thirds of respondents surveyed in January do not like the insurance mandate. Of those 5% said the mandate was unconstitutional. Another 25% said the cost of insurance was the reason.

Perhaps that's not surprising. Households have seen healthcare costs eat away at paychecks. Insured households struggle with medical bills as well as the uninsured, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported.

Kaiser's December public opinion poll did find the public susceptible to some economic arguments for and against the mandate. The mandate grew more unpopular when surveyors said the law could require some people to buy insurance they “find too expensive or do not want.” But the mandate's popularity increased when respondents were told without it, insurers would be allowed to deny coverage to the sick. The health reform law would no longer allow insurers to take such action.

You can follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans.



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