The CBO estimates that, in 2014, the combination of Obamacare’s taxpayer-subsidized exchanges (7 million additional insured) and changes in sales through the non-group market (2 million fewer insured) would result in 5 million additional people buying insurance. But the CBO has also estimated that, without the individual mandate, about 40 percent of those people (2 million of 5 million) would take a pass. In other words, an estimated 40 percent of the newly sold insurance would be attributable to federal coercion.
Indeed, the Obama administration has consistently argued that, without the individual mandate, Obamacare’s “comprehensive” architecture would collapse. Obama loves the “guaranteed issue” and “community ratings” parts of Obamacare, which together force insurers to cover all comers at essentially the same price (subject only to limited variations), regardless of their health status and hence how much it will actually cost to cover them. Yet he nevertheless had his administration argue before the Supreme Court that, should the Court strike down the individual mandate as unconstitutional (as four justices thought the Constitution required), it should also strike down these other two provisions. If the administration had really thought Obamacare would work without the individual mandate, it wouldn’t have been willing to sacrifice these other two provisions that Obama holds dear.
In truth, the administration is deeply concerned about getting people to buy insurance through Obamacare’s government marketplaces even with the mandate in effect. At an Obamacare event a few days ago, both Obama and Bill Clinton kept pleading with people to sign up to buy their mandatory insurance. Clinton said that Obamacare “only works, for example, if young people show up.” Obama said that we need to have “those of us who are healthy subsidize somebody who is sick.” (Quite a sales pitch, eh? You can see why they need the mandate.) Clinton’s very last words at the event were, “[W]e’ve got to get everybody to sign up.” Aside from “Thank you very much,” Obama’s were, “Everybody, sign up. Go to healthcare.gov.”