Does ObamaCare's Essential Benefits Regulation Undermine the Case for the Mandate?

Part of the argument for ObamaCare’s health insurance rests on the argument that mandatory health insurance does not actually require anyone to purchase something they wouldn’t buy; it’s merely regulating the financing of health care. One problem with this argument, however, is that the mandate does not merely require that individuals carry some sort of insurance. Instead, the minimum essential coverage provision requires that individuals carry policies that cover an array of specific benefits.

As The Hill’s Sam Baker points out, Chief Justice Roberts raised this point at today’s oral arguments, suggesting that the existence of mandatory benefits that many people won’t use invalidates a key defense of the provision: 

Verrilli said the mandate doesn’t force people to participate in commerce because everyone is, or might unexpectedly be, in the market for healthcare services.

But Chief Justice John Roberts questioned that argument. He noted that the mandate will force citizens to buy plans with benefits they might know for sure they’ll never use.

“If I understand the law, the policies that you're requiring people to purchase must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, and substance abuse treatment,” Roberts said. “It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need substance abuse treatment or pediatric services, and yet that is part of what you require them to purchase.”

The healthcare law requires most plans to cover a set of “essential health benefits,” which will be defined by each state in accordance with 10 broad categories written into the law itself. Because of those requirements, Roberts said, the law requires people to buy services they won’t use.

This could end up being a big problem for the mandate. On the one hand, its advocates say the mandate does not compel purchase and merely regulates how people purchase care. In fact, the law compels people to purchase coverage for specific health benefits that many would presumably not otherwise buy. 

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  • ||

    I suspect that this line of argumentation would also be used to distinguish between pure forced savings accounts, whether HSAs or Social Security accounts. In that case people at least get a certain monetary value, though certainly they can argue about being forced to make decisions about when to spend.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS NOT A FORCED SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

    Seriously - it's a welfare program. The end.

  • ||

    Nicely played, J. Roberts.

    On the one hand, its advocates say the mandate does not compel purchase and merely regulates how people purchase care.

    Of course, it regulates how people pay for care by mandating that they buy insurance, so I'm not sure what they think this line of argument is going to accomplish.

  • ||

    Hey, I don't think I actually would get an ear implant on the back of my neck to better hear behind me. But I'd feel better knowing its covered in case I change my mind.

  • Joe M||

    Fifty bucks says this is a Ron Bailey post.

  • ||

    Hefty wager. What makes you so sure? I can't read the alt text.

  • ||

    Fifty bucks says this is a Ron Bailey post.

    E-mail me for an address where you can send that money.

  • Joe M||

    Spoof! Spoof!

  • Peter Suderman||

    Sorry!

  • Joe M||

    See, everyone has a thing. Bailey's thing is forgetting the byline.

    Of course, your thing is Obamacare, so I guess it was 50/50.

  • Sevo||

    If tells were 100% reliable, more folks would take up poker full-time.

  • Auntie Meme||

    I know where you live, Mary.

  • Ice Nine||

    The healthcare law requires most plans to cover a set of “essential health benefits,” which will be defined by each state in accordance with 10 broad categories written into the law itself.

    You don't suppose there will be any politics of political correctness entering into the selection of which health benefits are "essential", do you?

  • RECTAL STACK||

    1) CHEEKBONES
    2) CHEEKBONES
    3) CHEEKBONES
    4) CHEEKBONES
    5) CHEEKBONES
    6) CHEEKBONES
    7) CHEEKBONES
    8) CHEEKBONES
    9) CHEEKBONES
    10) BOTOX

  • ||

    Every activist will want a cut of this huge new revenue stream. The only silver lining is that this is left to the states, so at least their level of retardation will on reach to their border.

  • ||

    "only"

  • PHAT INDIAN||

    “If I understand the law, the policies that you're requiring people to purchase must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, and substance abuse treatment,....”

    Who says that greasy Chicago dems don't know how to do "constituent servicing"!

  • Rich||

    “If I understand the law, the policies that you're requiring people to purchase must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, and substance abuse treatment,” Roberts said. “It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need substance abuse treatment or pediatric services."

    "Ah, Your Honor," responded the Government's attorney, "now for the REALLY clever part of the law!"

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    See?!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The shit that is becoming normal for people to expect insurance to pay for will be opened to extreme possibilities of absurdity due to the ambiguity of the "essential benefits", such as "preventive and wellness services".

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    So the cocksucker Verrilli argues, "And in addition, you have a situation in this market not only where people enter involuntarily as to when they enter and won't be able to control what they need when they enter..." but the law will require coverage for services that sure as hell are voluntary and sure as hell are controllable as to when the services are "needed."

    It's about time to take the hit on early IRA withdrawals and get the hell out of Dodge.

  • ||

    the law will require coverage for services that sure as hell are voluntary and sure as hell are controllable as to when the services are "needed."

    Rhymes with shmirth montrol ...

  • BakedPenguin||

  • ||

    It seems there are only 200 les ésotériques and 20k is the number of visitors. Still, aliens, Nazis, yurts, and a nice wine and cheese to enjoy along with it sounds kind of fun.

  • Paul||

    What happens in the yurt, stays in the yurt.

  • IceTrey||

    So does Obamacare repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act? Also in New York vs United States the court held that the federal government can not co-opt state employees to carry our a federal mandate. So if they can't make the states fulfill a mandate how can they make an individual, who is one level further down, do so?

  • shrike||

    Are you thinking what we're thinking?

  • Crickets||

  • Juice||

    Why hasn't Kagan recused herself again?

  • Sevo||

    'Cause Obama and Pelosi would have her scalp.
    They're going to need every vote they can get, and I'd bet there's some serious sweating going on right now.

  • Juice||

    She thug4life now. She doesn't have to answer to them. She does have to answer to the law that says she has to recuse herself though.

  • Mary's Stacked||

    Did I just put an uncomfortable mental image into your brainz?

  • Mary The Confessor||

    I broke John's brain.

  • Mary The Confessor||

    NTTAWWT

  • ||

    The worst possible outcome will be a 5-4 decision upholding the mandate, with the deciding vote being cast unethically by Kagan.

    I predict if that's how it is shaping up, Roberts will cross the aisle in. A feeble, and hopefully doomed, attempt to save the Court's credibility.

  • ||

    Fascinating!

  • Kirk||

    KAGANNNN!!

  • The Real Mary Stack||

    I'm dead, Jim.

  • Number 2||

    Hey Linda Greenhouse, do you still think this case is a slam dunk?

  • ||

    lol, American politics. Best politics money can buy lol.

    www.Anon-Works.tk

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