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What is the individual mandate?

It’s the part of Obamacare that requires nearly all Americans to carry health coverage.

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Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Chris Maddaloni / CQ Roll Call

The individual mandate is the provision of Obamacare that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance coverage. It exists to encourage people who are unlikely to buy coverage — mostly healthy people who think premiums are a waste of money — to sign up. This is necessary, many health economists believe, in order to keep premiums low.

Some people do get an exemption from the individual mandate, because they can’t find an affordable plan, for example, or have a religious objection to health coverage. But, by and large, most Americans are now required to carry health coverage or pay a penalty.

The penalty for not carrying coverage in 2015 is $395 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. In 2016, it rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income. The federal government recoups this penalty via the tax filing process (this calculator tells you how much you would pay).

Though the individual mandate was originally a conservative idea pushed in response to Bill Clinton’s 1994 health care plan, it became the subject of a lawsuit Republican attorneys general mounted against Obamacare’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in June 2012 that the mandate was constitutional under the federal government’s taxing powers. You can read the decision here.

What’s an individual man date?

That’s when two dudes hang out together in a non-romantic way, although it really has nothing to do with health policy. Andy Samberg is probably the best-suited person to explain the subject.

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