Professor Jeffrey H. Kahn recently published his article, Free Rider: A Justification for Mandatory Medical Insurance Under Health Care Reform? in the Michigan Law Review’s First Impressions, an online companion to the Law Review. Prof. Kahn wrote the article with his father, Douglas A. Kahn, the Paul G. Kauper Professor of Law at the University of Michigan School of Law.
The article discusses the much-debated and controversial Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which added section 5000A to the Internal Revenue Code to require most individuals in the United States to purchase an established minimum level of medical insurance. This requirement, which is enforced by a penalty imposed on those who fail to comply, is sometimes referred to as the “individual mandate.” Professor Kahn does not address the constitutionality of the section, but rather, focuses on the viability of one of the justifications that often is put forth for the adoption of the individual mandate: the “free-rider” problem. The article concludes that the free-rider problem, if it existed at all, likely was of minor significance and can hardly be said to justify the adoption of the new health care program. The actual congressional reason for adopting the program, Prof. Kahn argues, seems to rest on an entirely different purpose, and the debate over the desirability of the program should focus on the merits of that other purpose.