Document Type


Publication Date



Section 1501 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act added section 5000A to the Internal Revenue Code to require most individuals in the United States, beginning in the year 2014, 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.” The individual mandate is one element of a vast change to the provision of medical care that Congress implemented in 2010. The individual mandate has proved to be controversial and has been the subject of a number of lawsuits contending that it is unconstitutional. It is not our purpose in this article to discuss its constitutionality. Rather, this piece 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.