It’s true that the penalty for carrying no insurance is just $95 in the first year, which is a lot less than the full price of health insurance. But the penalty actually gets larger in 2015 and 2016, so that’s eventually $695 a year for a single adult, up to $2,085 a year for a family, or 2.5 percent of household income (whichever is greater). That won’t make much difference in the law’s first year, but it will make a difference afterwards—and insurers calculating their premiums can plan based on that increase.
As far as we can tell, this argument, in brief, is: if young people don’t consent to being ripped off by unfairly high premiums, the government, through the IRS, is going to come down on them like a ton of bricks and take their money anyway. This points toward a mixed verdict: young people may end up signing up for the insurance, but not thanking the party that forced them to do it.Both the law’s critics and supporters often assume that the outcome will either be catastrophic failure or triumphant vindication, but big, complicated interventions almost always have complicated consequences. Our guess is that the Obamacare debate will end up somewhere between the ACA being accepted as it currently is but resented (Cohn’s option) to being substantially reworked (but not repealed).Though we can’t know for sure, we probably won’t get the dream scenario of many ACA supporters: Obamacare, as it currently stands, being embraced and loved by a majority of the US.