The American Medical Association recently proposed that all individuals making more than $50,000 per year be required to purchase health insurance. The proposal includes tax penalties for individuals who don’t purchase health insurance as well as tax credits and subsidies to assist lower-income individuals in purchasing policies. “The AMA just took a huge step toward supporting universal health care for all Americans,” said Dr. Jack Lewin, executive vice president of the California Medical Association, which sponsored the proposal. “Historically, the AMA has supported voluntary approaches, but never a mandate.” Although Congress or state legislatures would need to enact laws to mandate health insurance coverage, the AMA’s lobbying efforts have been effective in gaining government support for its policy statements in the past.
Estimates from 2004 indicate that about 45 million people in the United States are without health insurance. According to the AMA’s suggestion, reforms in the insurance markets should also be made to keep plans affordable.
Health policy experts are also in favor of the individual mandate for health insurance. “It’s really amazing how quickly the individual mandate went from an occasional discussion among policy wonks to something advocated by major players, such as the AMA,” said Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “Broader acceptance of this idea may be the key to government’s moving more aggressively to expand health insurance coverage.”