The Supreme Court heard two hours of oral arguments today before their hotly anticipated ruling on national healthcare reform, in a case that focuses on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate” – the portion of the reform that requires every American citizen to obtain insurance or pay a penalty.

While most Americans are in favor of many elements of the reform – dubbed Obamacare by its detractors – the individual mandate has raised skepticism from a slim majority of the public.

Those against the mandate say it’s an example of government overreach into the private lives’ of its citizens. Those in favor of it argue that  the additional public expenses of the uninsured – whose unpaid bills default to the taxpayer – make it fair game for government involvement.

If the justices rule against the mandate, it will be the first time since 1936 that the Supreme Court rolls back a major piece of federal economic legislation for reasons of Congressional overreach.

What do you think? Does the mandate go too far into our private lives, or does the taxpayer burden make it fair game?

Related posts

  • JDSX

    Whether you support government healthcare or not, the main problem with the mandate is the sheer scope of power it would grant Congress. This would be disastrous in the long run.

    • dan

      You hit the nail on the head JDSX

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/XDXLE7HWO4Y2GH3P4BDELMLQ3Q Lysheen

      It mandates that people get insurance. 50 Billion $ in unpaid medical bills last year by people who don’t have insurance. Everyone American should have health insurance. If someone chooses to not have it, then they better be prepared to die if they have a heart attack? Completely ridiculous.

      • JDSX

         I understand what it mandates. You’re stuck in this particular argument and you seem to support it which I’m not going to debate. You won’t be so happy with Congress’ new powers to force consumption when it’s something you don’t support; perhaps with Republicans holding a super-majority?

        Please remember that any powers they get now will be usable by everyone forevermore and will only grow over time.

        • Julia

          Why nobody objects the mandate to buy car insurance? While you have a choice not to buy a car, there is no way you will avoid using health services at some point in your life. Lots of folks think that they will buy insurance once they get sick. Wrong. You never know when you get a stroke or appendicitis and etc. Like with car insurance it’s for your protection sometime down the road.

          • JDSX

            You gave the reason yourself. Our Federal government is one of “enumerated powers” and the ability to force someone to enter a market isn’t enumerated anywhere. State governments can do it, Federal can’t.

            Did you read or listen to the oral arguments? If you did, you’d maybe understand how ridiculous this is. Instead of all this trickery, the Federal government could’ve just taxed everyone and subsidized the cost like they do with so many other things. By doing it this way they seize a huge new power for themselves that will manifest in ways that should scare the shit out of people.

          • levp

            “First was the 1790 law, passed by that first Congress, which applied to any U.S. ship that was at least 150 tons or with a crew of at least 10. It required the master or commander to either have a supply of on-board medicines (with instructions) or provide “all such advice, medicine, or attendance of physicians, as any of the crew shall stand in need of in case of sickness” and do it “without any deduction from the wages of such sick seaman or mariner.”

            Sounds like mandatory health care to us.

            Then, in 1792, a Congress that included 17 framers passed a law requiring nearly every “free able-bodied white male citizen” age 18 to 44, within six months, “provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges,” along with balls and gunpowder. A rifle could be substituted. The purpose was to establish a uniform militia.

            Again, that sounds like a mandated purchase to us.

            Finally, in 1798, a Congress that included five framers expanded the health coverage mandate, requiring every ship owner or master coming into a port to pay 20 cents per seaman for every month each worker had been employed.

            [...]

            How did the framers vote on these laws?

            There was no roll call for the House and Senate bills requiring health care for seamen. But on the proposal mandating the purchase of musket, firelock or rifle as part of the larger bill to establish a uniform militia, 10 of the 14 framers whose votes were recorded endorsed the measure.

            [...]

            It should also be noted that the president who signed the first two of these laws was our Founding Father-in-Chief, George Washington.”
            http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/statements/2012/jan/13/einer-elhauge/harvard-law-professor-says-early-congress-mandated/

            Laws referenced:
            http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=257
            http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=394
            http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=728

            So, why do you hate George Washington?

          • JDSX

            I could pick apart your examples but if your references are so relevant to the mandate, how come the government didn’t use them?

          • levp

            One moment, let me call the President and find out. Now, where is that red phone?

          • JDSX

            You can throw around the snark but the fact is that regurgitating something you read online was only useful for forum arguments up until the government actually presented its case to the Supreme Court. Now we know that whatever you think it was worth, the Solicitor General along with the vast legal resources available to the White House disagree with you.

          • levp

            By the way, it’s not just something I read online: please see New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2012; 366:e1). But the article is *also* available online.
            The other 3 links are photocopies of the actual text of early Congress bills, courtesy of Library of Congress (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html ) – obviously, also widely available online.

            And I wish the White House would agree with me on everything – I was literally screaming “Universal Single-Payer Healthcare System” when ACA was being debated. However, I’ll take what I can get.

          • JDSX

            I’m not a lawyer and I feel it’s likely you’re not, either. I can speculate that maritime law is different in that the Federal government has police powers there which are otherwise reserved for the states and that things related to military defense are treated differently. I can speculate but I don’t have to because it’s certain that if there were a relevant precedent, the government would’ve used it. Ipso facto, as they say.

          • levp

            No, I’m not a lawyer either. I’m just saying that a freakout over “unprecedented”, broccoli, etc. is not justified, since even the Founding Fathers were okay with at least those 3 precedents as cited. To this day, no broccoli requirements.

          • JDSX

            A freakout is definitely justified. As my link shows, the Militia Act one was never enforced nor was it challenged (plus it was military-related which is different) and the maritime stuff isn’t applicable to federal vs. state arguments. This is why it’s both unprecedented and of great concern with regard to the bullshit Congress can foist on us going forward using it.

          • levp

            Whether or not a law was enforced doesn’t matter for this discussion – approval by the creators of Constitution is what matters. And as for Congress’ bullshit, why not talk about PATRIOT and NDAA, just to name a few?

          • JDSX

            There are many laws on the books that I’m sure we could both agree we dislike but that’s not the point. Your examples aren’t relevant to what’s happening now and that’s established. At the time, the decisions they were making related to the military defense of a new nation in a tempestuous time but, even then, they were not tested as being constitutional. If they wanted Congress to have the power to enforce participation for commerce’s sake, they would’ve enumerated it. They didn’t.

          • levp

            In any event, it is not up to me or you to decide now – it is up to 9 people in robes. So sit back and relax…

  • nov_284

    About the only hope we still have is the general level of incompetence on behalf of the government when it comes to litigating this.  It didn’t really seem like the plaintifs were doing too well arguing their points.

  • http://bensonhurstbean.com Joe Teutonico

    I think Americans, especially moderates, would feel a lot better about this law if Congress hadn’t opted out of it.

    Plus, we need real single-payer, Universal Health Care, not just a big giveaway to the Insurance industry – by doing that, this bill carries the same potential for overcharging and fraud as the one that requires New York State drivers to buy car insurance.

    If pressed on it (and after reading the actual bill) I might vote for it, but I’d rather have a real cure for our current system instead what looks to me like a band aid.

    Good idea. Bad bill.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    Bad move. the cost of health insurance can often make the difference between survival and poverty, especially in families.

  • Andrew Kent

    Regardless
    of how one views the constitutionality of the “individual mandate,”

    Justice
    Scalia’s analogy that, if the government can force people buy health insurance

    it could
    force people to buy broccoli, is fallacious because, while broccoli could well
    be

    included
    in a government-mandated prepaid managed market basket, requiring someone

    to eat
    it, or attempting to ascertain whether or not they did, would be entirely
    unconstitutional.

    It’s no
    surprise that a Republican would vilify broccoli, but an Italian-American?
    Mamma mia!

    • Andrew Kent

       Why, whenever I paste previously typed copy, does it come out like this?

    • JDSX

      I don’t understand your point. You just said they could force us to buy broccoli which was exactly what he said. No one said anything about forcing us to eat it.

      What about burial services? Everyone will be in that market sooner or later which is truer than healthcare.

      • Andrew Kent

        My point was that there would be no point in requiring us to buy broccoli unless it increased the likelihood that we would also eat it, something that the government could not legally require us to do. Under the individual mandate, we would be required to buy health insurance, whether or not we intended to use it, however, were we to need healthcare, we would be required to use our health insurance to pay for it.  Yet, even here, some critics have suggested that, while it may be good fiscal policy to use mandated health insurance to indemnify the healthcare system against unpaid utilization, it would be unfair to prohibit those who could afford services not covered to pay for them out-of-pocket.

        So, under “Obamacare,” would such elective procedures as a nose job be covered?  Would people be allowed to purchase these services on their own?  Would patients be allowed to supplement their plans’ reimbursement rates to get better care or to pay for procedures denied by their plans’ gatekeepers?  I think the constitutional questions here are not so much with regard to the individual mandate to buy health coverage, but, rather, with regard to the privacy, liberty, and/or property interests that may be compromised by the national healthcare program itself.

        • JDSX

          Government can’t require us to eat broccoli nor can it require us to use healthcare. Were we to need broccoli, using their new-found powers they would require us to use our broccoli insurance (or whatever group purchasing scheme they setup) to pay for it.

          • Andrew Kent

            No, government can’t require us to use healthcare, but, if government is going to be required to provide healthcare, patients must be required to have, or to obtain, the means to pay for it.  I mean, you wouldn’t go into a restaurant and order a meal that you couldn’t pay for, would you?  Yeah, government and private charities do provide free food for the indigent hungry, but what if all they offered was broccoli?

            But, your point that government can’t “require us to use healthcare” does raise the question of whether, say, Christian Scientists should be required to buy coverage they are less likely to use or to be allowed to pay a lower premium for a plan geared to their less likely utilization of medical services.

            Even better, perhaps we should have a “broccoli discount,” kinda like the auto insurance discount for people who took a driver education course.  If you buy and eat broccoli, thus increasing the likelihood that you will be healthier and make other healthy choices, you would pay less for your health coverage.  Mmmm,,,,

          • JDSX

            This is still the same slippery slope. If government is required to pay for healthcare, then it can make us buy vegetables or join a gym. Sure, they can’t make us eat or work out, but that doesn’t seem to matter here.

            I understand why they want the mandate but it’s still not one of Congress’ enumerated powers which means they shouldn’t be able to do it and, if they get away with it, they will have a whole new way to screw with our lives.

          • Andrew Kent

            Healthcare for anyone who needs it and can’t afford it is essential in a civilized society, and, as such, should be a fundamental right as are life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  The best way to accomplish this is to impose a tax, as opposed to the individual mandate, and then fund healthcare as we do police, fire, sanitation, the military, etc.  Many people would actually save money, as what they are paying now for health insurance is more than they would be taxed.  Perhaps the wealthy, as well as employers choosing to offer additional coverage at their own expense, could get some kind of tax advantage for their additional outlays, but everyone would have at least some basic coverage with everyone footing the bill.

            None of us would tolerate a profit-driven, privately run police force or military, yet we have no problem with a largely proprietary healthcare system that is bleeding us and third-party payers dry while small and medium-sized hospitals that depend on public reimbursement programs are closing, selling off their properties to real estate developers, and leaving entire communities without adequate medical services.  Healthcare, and health insurance, shouldn’t be luxuries or privileges available only to those who can afford them.  The social and economic viability of a society depends on the health and productivity of its people.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

          • JDSX

            Andrew, you’re arguing for the healthcare policy which isn’t really the point here. If you want to make it a fundamental right, amend the Constitution. What I’m talking about is an unconstitutional expansion of Federal power that would harm us all in the long run, even if it’s used to provide something you want right now.

          • Andrew Kent

            That’s why it should have been funded by a tax.  By asking the SCOTUS to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the litigation could set a precedent that might result in the slippery slope that you envision.  It’s like same-sex marriage.  Expanding the definition of marriage legislatively, however uneven and discriminatory it may be from state to state, is safer than having the courts rule that it is a constitutional right, which clearly opens the door to polygamy, which few people want yet which has a much longer and better established history in human civilization.

          • JDSX

            Then it seems like we’re in agreement. Whether we agree on whether government-funded healthcare is good or not, the individual mandate at the federal level is unconstitutional and would lead to other bad things.

  • Sfries

    For those who believe that it is o’kay for the President (and/or congress) to REQUIRE
    its citizens to obtain/purchase Healthcare insurance, this would now set a wonderful
    standard for the future…  Next year the Government wil require anyone that wants
    to have a car, must buy a VOLT or some other model.   What wil be the next item
    that the Government will REQUIRE EVERYONE TO OBTAIN?

    • Julia

      You’re already buying car insurance. Any objections?

      • Smoothazsilc01

        It’s not about the insurance, it’s about control. Why not pass a law that says, anybody can get health insurance, regardless of their pre-existing conditions?  Why not allow ALL companies nationwide compete in a free market society without forcing everyone to participate? Why not leave in the 26 year old clause without the individual mandate? Everyone uses car insurance. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Living is a right. We don’t force people to own an insured automobile, or pay a $3000 dollar a year fine.

        • Howard from Midwood

          By the way , automotive insurance is an OPTION even if you have a car in certain parts of the country.

      • dan

        The difference between the government mandating you buy car insurance and mandating you buy health insurance is you can avoid buying car insurance simply by not owning a car. You can not avoid buying this health insurance.  Should everyone be mandated to buy car insurance?

  • Whwsailboat

    Some thoughts.

    The government already compels all of us to pay tax.

    The government already compels us to obey various laws or go
    to jail.

    The government already compels us to buy automobiles with
    seat belts.

    The government already compels companies not to pollute our
    water and air.

    We are already compelled to pay for people without health
    insurance.

    Health care is not an elective option. Who elects to get a
    heart attack?

    Health care should be view just as a fire department, police
    department or army is. A necessary function of a civilized society that we all
    pay for, use involuntarily and fairly distributed based on need.   

    • dan

      Does the government compel you to buy a car?  No.

      Every time you start a car, a car you were not compelled to buy, exhaust IS polluting the air.

      The government compels most of us to pay tax.  As any retired cop or firefighter on disabilty can tell you your pension is ALL tax free. Move to a state without income tax and rent an apartment, what tax is being compelled to pay?

      If you need a government to compel you not to kill, cheat or steal another person’s property, there are other issues at work

      • dan

        ** I meant SALES TAX not INCOME TAX

    • dan

      As far as the government compelling us to buy cars with seat belts, they do not.  If you go out and buy a 1963 or older vehicle they are exempt from having seat belts.  The government can not compel you to install pollution control devices on a vehicle that never had them.  If I decide to go to a car show and buy a 1962 Impala the government can not force me to install seatbelts or any kind of pollution control device.  Heck, even NYS does not require an emission inspection on cars that DO have pollution control devices. Cars from 1988 or older are exempt from emissions inspection. 

  • Tinman

    Federal legislators should NOT be allowed to pass legislation that does not affect them. They do not deserve special treatment since they do nothing special. Until our elected representatives provide the same health coverage to the rest of us, they should not have their own.

  • RomanM

    You cannot remove the mandate without making it law (or allow it to be law) that Emergency Department visits are only for those who can pay for them (insurance or cash/credit). As long as everyone has access to emergency department health care (and hospitals in general) they are part of the health care system, if you’re part of it, you should be paying for it one way or another.

  • Local Broker

    The only thing i want from the government is my tax return!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Z3UYB6MQII5ZVZQQMFAEUOZ46A Lorenzo

    I agree with the person below who says the government already compels us to do any number of things — pay taxes, obey various laws, buy auto insurance, get a passport to travel outside the country… The GOP is trying to draw the very nuanced distinction between the Federal vs State government which MOST Americans don’t.  The government is the government.  Get a grip!!!  Your argument is far too esoteric.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Z3UYB6MQII5ZVZQQMFAEUOZ46A Lorenzo

    Since so many people have a problem with the mandate, I will continue to use the emergency room since health insurance is so rediculously expensive.