As we learned during the recent debate over the extension of the payroll tax cut, 160 million Americans pay taxes to fund the Medicare and Social Security trusts for today and tomorrow's retirees. Since 1935, workers and their employers have each paid into the Social Security trust fund, a figure which next year will return to its 6.2 percent rate on the first $106,000 of income. In addition, employer and employee alike are on the hook for another 1.45 percent for Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly established in 1965.
In comparison, the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate impacts just a small fraction of Americans. For starters, over 80 percent already have health insurance, compared to roughly 17 percent who do not. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 59 percent of those under age 65 receive employer-sponsored insurance, while another 22 percent are covered by public programs including Medicaid and SCHIP. Of the 50 million people who are currently uninsured, about 20 million (including undocumented immigrants and those with religious objections or claiming economic hardship), are not covered or are otherwise exempt from the health insurance mandate. As a recent Urban Institute analysis concluded:
What may be surprising, however, is that if the ACA were in effect today, 94 percent of the total population (93 percent of the nonelderly population) or 250.3 million people out of 268.8 million nonelderly people would not face a requirement to newly purchase insurance or pay a fine.