The individual mandate is in the news, as a federal judge declared it unconstitutional. The actual issues will be decided based on arcane Supreme Court precedents relating to the Commerce Clause, and ultimately by five Supreme Court justices. But conservatives are making a lot of noise right now about how horrible the mandate is. So just a few snarky notes…
1. As Jonathan Chait notes, the mandate was a Republican idea. It was featured in GOP responses to Clinton’s health plan, and of course in Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. Not a peep about unconstitutionality back when it was a Republican notion.
2. As David Leonhart points out, feverish objections to any new government program are standard conservative rhetoric. In 1961 Ronald Reagan objected to Medicare as “socialized medicine”; in 2010 Tea Partiers chanted “Hands off my Medicare!”
3. But the Founders would never have required citizens to pay for something! …Only they did. Turns out that in 1792 Congress required all able-bodied white men to buy a rifle. (This wasn’t under the commerce clause, but under the militia clause.) Come to think of it, there’s a town in Tennesse that requires firearm possession. Again, not a peep from the conservatives about coercion and dictatorship and where will it all end.
The mandate is really a tax– a tax on those who refuse to buy health insurance yet can burden the system by taking emergency care, or just free-riding while they’re healthy and signing up when they’re sick. There are other ways to solve this, however– e.g. if you don’t get health insurance, you could be kept for five years from enrolling in any government health insurance and private firms would be allowed to exempt pre-existing conditions.