Can the government really require you to get individual health insurance? Congress says so, and for those of you approaching your 26th birthday and will no longer be able to stay on your parents' plan, this will affect you and your expenses. Soon the U. S. Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of the "individual mandate," which is part of the Health Care Reform Act.

What Are The Implications Of The Individual Mandate?

The Health Care Reform Act requires individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. However, according to most health insurance experts, the penalty is too weak, so it won't compel someone who is young and healthy to purchase insurance.

In exchange for driving a bevy of people to purchase insurance, who wouldn't otherwise purchase it, the Act requires that insurance companies cannot limit coverage by:


  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Setting lifetime limits on coverage
  • Setting limits on annual benefits


Although the individual mandate is but only one provision in the Act, most believe it is the cement that holds the legislation together to providing affordable health coverage for everyone. If young, healthy indviduals don't purchase health insurance, it will only make it more expensive for those that do, which defeats the purpose of the Act.

What Have Been The Arguments So Far?

Five Federal District judges have ruled on the constitutionality of the Act; three have upheld it and two have struck it down. Those that have upheld it argue everyone needs health care sometime in their lives and individuals receive health care regardless of their ability to pay. So, that means the Act regulates individuals who are engaged in an economic activity, thus making it legal.

What Will The Supreme Court Do?

This one is hard to predict, based on prior cases. Sometimes the Court has upheld the broad power of Congress under the Commerce Clause; in other cases, the Court claimed the Commerce Clause is indeed limited. Only time will tell.

Do you think the government can tell us what to buy?