University of Southern California

Taxing Youth: Health Care Reform Writes a Costly Prescription that Leaves the Young and Healthy Paying the Bill

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Note by Charles P. Litchfield
From Volume 85, Number 2 (January, 2012)

With the American health care system facing a looming crisis due to unsustainable rates of medical cost inflation, the government has reacted by passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While the present ubiquity of third-party payers in the form of health insurance or government programs spawns inefficiencies and perverse incentives that drive market forces to work against, rather than toward, maximum social welfare, the reform bill threatens to exacerbate the very inefficiencies it seeks to avoid. Rather than focusing on controlling medical cost inflation, the bill seeks to include high-risk groups that are normally priced out of the insurance market, thus placing more stress on the payment model. The individual mandate—making health insurance mandatory—ensures that the low-risk young and healthy demographic will bear the cost of this increased burden on the insurance system. This Note examines how the recent health reform bill proposes to restructure the insurance market itself and analyzes the inadequacies of the individual mandate. Further, it briefly explores the constitutional challenges to the mandate and discusses whether the health reform bill is salvageable in light of its deficiencies.

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