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Individual Health Insurance Mandate Helps Balance The Field

The federal online marketplace for health insurance opens October 1.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, most Americans are required to have insurance beginning in 2014. This part of the law, referred to as the “individual mandate,” is designed to increase the number of consumers in the total insurance pool, with the intention of lowering premiums across the board.

Linda Sheppard, Special Counsel and Director of Health Care Policy and Analysis for the Kansas Insurance Department, says that since the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover even those consumers with pre-existing conditions, the mandate was put into place so that it wouldn’t be only those people signing up for new coverage. She says that would have led to much higher costs for consumers – and insurance was designed to have a balance of the young and healthy along with the older and the ill.

"When you think about it, if the only people who had to buy car insurance were bad drivers, the cost of car insurance would be very expensive, so it’s moderated by the fact that we all have to. And some of us have more car problems than others, but it’s basically the same concept. Insurance is a game of numbers and that’s the way it works out," Sheppard says.

While the mandate applies to most Americans, the Affordable Care Act does provide subsidies for many who could not otherwise afford coverage.

The law requires consumers to hold health insurance for at least nine months of 2014.

More information for Kansans, including on who can receive subsidies for the individual mandate, is at insureks.org.

KMUW hosted a live call-in show on Oct 9, 2013 to address questions about how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect individuals and businesses in Kansas. Check out our archive of those questions and answers from our experts to find out even more about how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect you.

Follow the on-going coverage of the Affordable Care Act with more reports from KMUW News and NPR.