Young 'Invincibles,' Small Businesses Worry About Proposed Mandates

Newspapers report on how young adults and small businesses might be affected by the mandates proposed in the health care bills pending in Congress.

The Miami Herald reports on so-called young "invincibles," people in their late teens to mid-twenties who are voluntarily uninsured because they are convinced their health and lifestyle make paying premiums an unnecessary cost. Twenty-seven precent of Americans age 18-34 don't have insurance—"the largest segment of Americans to go without." Their "gamble has become a crucial point in the debate over healthcare reform and how to pay for it, as the proposals in Congress would mandate that everyone buy insurance or face steep penalties. Supporters of mandatory coverage, including President Barack Obama, say it's a key step in making insurance affordable for everyone."

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday "might move one step closer to taking this choice out of the hands of the invincibles, when it is scheduled to vote on its healthcare-reform bill. The committee's bill, as well as versions in the House of Representatives, include plans for 'individual mandates' that would require all American adults to purchase insurance policies or face financial penalties" (Burnett, 10/11). 

Related KHN story: People Who Choose Not To Have Health Insurance

Small business owners are concerned that mandates requiring employers to provide insurance to workers might put a strain on business, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "While small businesses around the country have rallied around legislative measures that would force insurers to accept all applicants and offer government subsidies to low-income workers, they've winced at mandates to provide coverage for every employee or pay a penalty equal to as much as 8 percent of payroll."

"Supporters of the measure said exemptions would exclude as much as 91 percent of small businesses from the penalty, but that hasn't dampened the criticism. ... groups advocating for small businesses back the creation of exchanges where health insurance plans can be compared against one another in an effort to boost competition and drive down prices. What small-business owners want most from a reform plan is assurance that skyrocketing health costs will be reined in, said Bill Hammett, a health insurance agent and president of the San Diego Association of Health Underwriters. Many companies have watched premiums rise as much as 15 percent annually in recent years" (Darcé, 10/12).

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