"[T]he mandate is almost worthless because the word is getting around that they can’t really collect it"

EK: I recognize that we won’t really know what the mix of healthy and sick people is until at least April, once we see the surge from the individual mandate. But what are insurers seeing in the mix so far?

RL: It’s not positive. I don’t want to say people have given up on the notion they’ll get a good mix. They know the administration will make a big push. The insurance companies will spend big on advertising and outreach. So no one has given up. But it doesn’t look good right now.

There’s a big misconception that this is about young people. That’s baloney. It’s about healthy people. A healthy 20-year-old might only pay a $100 premium. You want healthy 40 and 50-year-olds. The big problem right now is really total enrollment. We only have about 10 percent of the uninsured in here. Insurers think you need more like 70 percent of a pool of people to sign up…

EK: That brings up two issues. The first is the individual mandate, which begins this year but is a much bigger penalty in year two, and then even bigger in year three. So one question here is how well that works.

RL: I have an interesting answer for that. I think the mandate is almost worthless because the word is getting around that they can’t really collect it. And by year three, it’s really a lot of money. I think there’ll be real pressure to just get rid of it. I don’t think you can force people to buy this insurance. If they don’t want it there’ll be a political groundswell to get rid of it. So in my mind the individual mandate is kind of irrelevant to this.