What do Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama all have in common? All of these men supported the extension of health care to more Americans through what is called an “individual mandate.” My conservative friend may rhapsodize about how this individual mandate violates his conservative philosophy. However, in this case, I find that conservative philosophy is no more than a thick intellectual fog concealing motives of political gamesmanship. By piercing through this fog, you will find a story of Republican policy radicalization and Democratic policy compromise.
The individual mandate can better be understood as a “personal responsibility tax” (in Ezra Klein’s phrasing). If you are under 27 years of age, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance. If, like 83 percent of Americans, you choose to buy health insurance, then you receive a tax credit to exempt you. If you cannot afford health insurance, you can receive a hardship waiver to exempt you. But, if you can afford and choose not to buy health insurance, then starting in 2014, you will pay the “personal responsibility tax.” This is meant to persuade the voluntarily uninsured to buy insurance. When these individuals do get sick or injured, we — who do choose to buy health care — are forced to absorb their cost of emergency room treatment. The insured supported the voluntarily uninsured at the cost of $43 billion in 2008. Any microeconomics class teaches that a “personal responsibility tax” or individual mandate is a tax to off-set a negative externality, which otherwise is costing health insurance subscribers billions of dollars a year in increased premiums.
Nonetheless, the 2010 Health Care Reform Law is working its way to the U.S. Supreme Court because of the individual mandate. As of last week, 14 federal judges have dismissed challenges to the law, while two federal judges have ruled that the law is unconstitutional because of the individual mandate. The legal argument centers on whether choosing not to buy insurance falls under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which then would empower Congress to regulate such activity.
The most cogent argument in favor of the individual mandate comes from former Solicitor General Charles Fried, who served for Republican President Reagan. Fried’s argument is best summarized as, “Insurance is commerce. Health insurance is undoubtedly commerce. Congress has the power to regulate … a rule [e.g. individual mandate] for commerce.” Regardless of philosophical ideas on individual liberty, the judicial precedent going back to 1905 ( Jacobson v. Massachusetts) “shows conclusively that the mandate is not an unconstitutional imposition on an individual’s liberty.” This opinion, from a prominent conservative judicial scholar, demonstrates that health care opponents’ lawsuits are far outside the constitutional mainstream. The liberal and conservative scholarly consensus supports the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
Why are Republicans then so vociferously opposed to the individual mandate? The answer is that they were not opposed until it became the key mechanism of Obama’s healthcare reform. The individual mandate was originated from the George H.W. Bush (Republican) White House and supported by Republicans in 1993 as an alternative to Clinton’s health care. Clinton’s health care failed despite adopting Nixon’s employer mandate. Obama health care barely passed despite adopting Bush Sr.’s individual mandate. This debate is emblematic of Democrats compromising towards an illusive political center, which is meanwhile being pulled rightward as Republicans denounce formerly supported policies just as soon as Democrats adopt them. Democrats must stand and fight for progressive policies instead of abandoning them for the hollow hope of legislative bipartisanship.
Yea right pay attention, WE don’t need obamacare we need to get rid of that ddebt he is building to collapse our country!!!
The people named all said the same thing, the motivation was completely different however. The motivation was yet another attempt to move the socialist agenda forward. It was working well until things like your state going bust began to expose the fallacy of the concept.
how deceptive, the OTHER two judges did NOT hear nor CONSIDER the INDIVIDUAL MANDATE in those cases, in the two cases where it WAS HEARD it was found unconstitutional, as it is, and as the USSC will also find it to be. It matters not WHO or WHAT party supports an unconsitutional proposal, in the end, its illegal. If America WANTS this as I keep hearing it DOES, then ammend the constition and CREATE IT, LEGALLY, stop trying to backdoor the constitution. Doing so only leads to division, and a HUGE waste of time and money. This legislation the dems… Read more »
Why are Republicans then so vociferously opposed to the individual mandate? The answer is because it is illegal, and the dems were WARNED by the AG of FL in December 2009 it was illegal, and he cited the USSC cases that it would be cited under, you know, precedent ? Specifically, section Q of the gun control law that forbid guns on schools across the USA. The USSC tossed that and THAT case and its PRECEDENT are what was cited on BOTH of the cases that have caused the INDIVIDUAL MANDATE to be found unconstitutional. To expect THIS USSC to… Read more »
75% of medical expense in America is from chronic, DIET-RELATED illness. Look it up if you doubt this truth. And yet, the ‘responsibility’ of those who abuse themselves, the medical system and the wallets of everyone else in that soon-to-be mandated insurance pool with food is completely ignored.. Ask yourself how much money a New Jersey woman named Donna Simpson – AKA – the World’s Fattest Mom, cost the medical system, when she deliberately ate herself to 540 pounds and delivered a baby and the emergency C-section required no less than THIRTY medical attendants.. but that’s NOT irresponsible.. Go to… Read more »
Sad that the Nexus “left” columnist would be supportive of this massive corporate welfare scheme.
The insurance industry LOVES Obamacare–huge guaranteed profits from a highly defective product.
With health care not recognized as a basic human right by either the Democrats or the Republican, this is the kind of mess we are left with.
“Individual Mandate Ensures “Responsiblity” of American Citizens”
How about taking some responsibility and learning how to spell before you start spewing your liberal vomit. While you’re at it tell Obama to take responsibility and quit smoking, he’s raising health costs for the rest of us non-smokers.
Effin Liberals always got to make it about semantics. So now its a personal liberty tax. Hilarious.
*personal responsibility tax
what do you mean by that?!
Here ya go guys…I created a video that explains clearly the moral and logical necessity for a requirement that every American purchase health insurance:
touche touche, but we all know that reality has a well known liberal bias, so we can just ignore what you just said.
FYI it only took 3 doctors to deliver my daughter in a NON emergency c section..the other staff were doctors in training to observe an unusual procedure..by the way I have private insurance that I pay over 200 a month for get your facts straight
very good article indeed.. i truly enjoy reading this
obviously like your web-site but you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.