Straight talk on health care reform: Here's a chart to help you understand the misunderstood 'individual mandate'
The main goal of the Affordable Care Act is to have more Americans covered by health insurance. The mechanism for achieving that goal is the "individual mandate" – the requirement that most Americans have health insurance.
The simple reason behind the mandate is that in order for the insurance market to offer guaranteed coverage and be efficient and cost-effective, the maximum number of people must participate.
It's important to remember that for most Americans, nothing will change under the mandate. For those who have insurance individually or through their employer, nothing will change. For those covered by Medicaid and Medicare, nothing will change. For veterans who use the VA, nothing will change.
A relatively small number of people will have to buy insurance, or face a penalty for not participating. And there are exceptions, including those for people with religious objections, incomes under the tax-filing threshold and those who can't afford or have temporary lapses in coverage.
The Kaiser Family Foundation produced a flow chart that makes the mandate easier to understand. Click on image to see larger version.