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New report recommends Delaware add individual mandate to lower insurance costs

Delaware Public Media

A new report obtained by Delaware Public Media recommends the First State establish high risk health insurance pools and an individual mandate.

The Medicaid Buy-In Study Group, chaired by State Sen. Bryan Townsend and State Rep. Paul Baumbach, is calling for more Delawareans to get health insurance by making Affordable Care Act premiums less expensive.

To achieve that, the state would apply for a federal waiver and subsidize some of the cost to insurers. One option for doing that could be charging insurers a fee. Another is a mandate - penalizing Delawareans who don’t obtain health coverage.

Townsend said the plan only works if everyone’s part of the system, including the young, old, healthy and sick.

“An individual mandate is partly a way to raise revenue for the reinsurance program directly, but also partly a way to try make our health insurance system work the way it’s supposed to work,” he said.

Townsend said he doesn’t know whether a state individual mandate idea will be controversial.

“If you have healthy individuals who don’t have health insurance and then expect there to be health care when they suddenly are unhealthy, that’s kind of against the whole point of insurance,” he said.

An estimate provided to the study group say lowering premiums by 20 percent could cost from $3.5 million dollars to $7 million in 2020.

The report notes the federal government took in about $8.1 million dollars from Delawareans from the federal ACA individual mandate in 2016.

Townsend said he was frustrated that the group didn't delve deeper into a public option or expanding the state employee insurance plan.

He hopes the legislature will pass a resolution next week asking the Dept. of Health and Social Services to start the waiver process.

Editor's note: The previous version of this story quoted State Sen. Townsend saying a state individual mandate would not be controversial.  Instead, he stated he did not know if a state individual mandate would be controversial.


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