Daschle, Gregg spar over individual mandate at AHIP meeting

The debate over the individual mandate rages on as ex-lawmakers offered opposing views about its sustainability during the AHIP Institute conference in San Francisco last week.

Jim O'Neil

There are 20 cases pending in the legal system that challenge whether Congress has the authority to legislate an individual responsibility. However, "there will be a mandate regardless of how the courts rule," former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) predicted. Past votes by the Supreme Court on similar issues were supportive to mandates, he noted.

Regardless of the mandate’s legality, Daschle said the industry can't support a personal responsibility without supporting a mandate. "You can't have it both ways," he said. If all individuals aren't required to take responsibility for their own healthcare, those who do take care of themselves will continue to pay for those who don't, he said.  "We all should have the responsibility to pay for ourselves and our own healthcare."

Jim O'Neil

Former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), however, presented a completely different outlook. "The individual mandate is not likely to survive," Gregg said. He predicted that Congress will pass legislation ending the mandate before next year's presidential election. Daschle, however, believes President Obama will veto anything that comes across his desk that repeals the individual mandate.

Gregg asserted that a catastrophic coverage plan "makes more sense" than an individual mandate. That would allow, for example, a person in their 20s who doesn't want or need overall healthcare to still receive needed medical services if, for example, they break a bone.

The one thing both lawmakers agreed upon: This issue has legs. "There will be amendments to defund, amend, and repeal" the health reform law, they said. In other words, there will be no resolve for "some time to come," Daschle said.

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