And any system based on financial eligibility holds an incentive for enforced poverty. If people try to earn more money because they need it, they get bumped into a higher tier in the state’s subsidized coverage and either their cost sharing goes up or they lose coverage altogether. They must choose between earning more money or losing subsidized insurance. NBC Nightly News briefly mentioned the problem, reporting on a clarinetist with the Boston Ballet orchestra who took a semester teaching job, earned more money, and lost his insurance. Its reporting should have gone much further. As the Financial Times reported last July in a package on the ailing U.S. health system, enforced poverty is a Catch-22. The FT shows a way for American journalists to tackle a missing piece of the story on individual mandates.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.