Free Riding and the Individual Mandate


At Forbes, Avik Roy responds to the argument that the "free-rider" problem in health care justifies the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's individual mandate to purchase health insurance:

The "free rider" problem is not inherent to the nature of health care. It's a problem that was 100% created by unwise federal policy. As we've discussed before, the "free rider" problem, to the degree it even exists, is an artifact of a 1986 act of Congress, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which forced hospitals to provide uncompensated emergency care to anyone who needed it.

The idea that you can pass an unconstitutional law to remedy a problem created by a prior act of Congress makes no sense. The more straightforward remedy is to repeal the old law, or fully fund it. If a dumb federal law drove New York's newspapers into bankruptcy, would it be okay for the government to force you to subscribe to the New York Post?

Read Jacob Sullum on free-riding, cost-shifting and the EMTLA here.