RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
We’re going to continue our conversation about the Republican tax bill and focus on specific provisions in the bill affecting health care. As we just heard, the bill will repeal what’s called the individual mandate, a key part of the Affordable Care Act that requires people to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty. To understand what effect this could have on the insurance market, we’re joined now by Julie Rovner, Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Good to have you with us, Julie.
JULIE ROVNER: Nice to be here.
SUAREZ: So what would be the most immediate effect of the repeal?
ROVNER: Well, the most immediate effect is that people will be confused because they’re actually repealing the penalties but not until 2019. So for next year, people will still be required to either have health insurance or pay a penalty. And, of course, yesterday was the end of open enrollment for most people in most states.
SUAREZ: Now, when people leave the insurance market, it must have some effect on the numbers that are very, very carefully balanced for this law to work.
ROVNER: That’s right. That’s the biggest concern that insurers have. Insurance – said when the Affordable Care Act was passed, that if you’re going to require us to accept sick people and not to charge them more, you’re going to have to have some way to get more healthy people into the pool. That’s what this mandate penalty was about. Insurers said at the beginning it wasn’t big enough. And, in fact, it hasn’t really driven that many healthy people to sign up. But there is a concern that if you take it away and don’t replace it with anything – and at the moment there is no replacement in this bill – that literally only sick people will buy insurance. The only response for insurers at that point is either to raise premiums dramatically or to drop out altogether.
SUAREZ: One senator for whom the
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