In a lengthy concurring opinion to today’s majority opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quoted from the amicus brief submitted on behalf of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. In the brief, Gregoire cited the state’s failed attempt to reform health care in 1993, a failure she blamed on the lack of an individual mandate to obtain insurance coverage.
Here is the excerpt that cites Washington state and Gregoire’s brief…
But these two provisions, Congress comprehended, could not work effectively unless individuals were given a powerful incentive to obtain insurance. See Hearings before the House Ways and Means Committee, 111th Cong., 1st Sess., 10, 13 (2009) (statement of Uwe Reinhardt) (“[I]m- position of community-rated premiums and guaranteed issue on a market of competing private health insurers will inexorably drive that market into extinction, unless these two features are coupled with . . . a mandate on individual[s] to be insured.” (emphasis in original)).
In the 1990’s, several States—including New York, New Jersey, Washington, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—enacted guaranteed-issue and community rating laws without requiring universal acquisition of insurance coverage. The results were disastrous. “All seven states suffered from skyrocketing insurance premium costs, reductions in individuals with coverage, and reductions in insurance products and providers.” Brief for American Association of People with Disabilities et al. as Amici Curiae in No. 11–398, p. 9 (hereinafter AAPD Brief).See also Brief for Governor of Washington Christine Gregoire as Amicus Curiae in No. 11–398, pp. 11–14 (describing the “death spiral” in the insurance market Washington experienced when the State passed a law requiring coverage for preexisting conditions).
Congress comprehended that guaranteed-issue and community-rating laws alone will not work. When insurance companies are required to insure the sick at affordable prices, individuals can wait until they become ill to buy insurance. Pretty soon, those in need of immediate medical care—i.e., those who cost insurers the most—become the insurance companies’ main customers. This “adverse selection” problem leaves insurers with two choices: They can either raise premiums dramatically to cover their ever-increasing costs or they can exit the market.
In the seven States that tried guaranteed-issue and community rating requirements without a minimum coverage provision, that is precisely what insurance companies did. See, e.g., AAPD Brief 10 (“[In Maine,] [m]any insurance providers doubled their premiums in just three years or less.”); id., at 12 (“Like New York, Vermont saw substantial increases in premiums after its . . . insurance reform measures took effect in 1993.”); Hall, An Evaluation of New York’s Reform Law, 25 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 71,91–92 (2000) (Guaranteed-issue and community-rating laws resulted in a “dramatic exodus of indemnity insurers from New York’s individual [insurance] market.”); Brief for Barry Friedman et al. as Amici Curiae in No. 11–398, p. 17 (“In Kentucky, all but two insurers (one State-run) abandoned the State.”).Massachusetts, Congress was told, cracked the adverse selection problem. By requiring most residents to obtain insurance, see Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 111M, §2 (West 2011), the Commonwealth ensured that insurers would not be left with only the sick as customers. As a result, federal lawmakers observed, Massachusetts succeeded where other States had failed.