Is Mandatory Health Insurance Unconstitutional?

I just came across an excellent article by Karl Manheim and Jamie Court. It presents some compelling explanations of how the idea of making private health insurance mandatory for American citizens may not be constitutional. At the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, I’ve come out in support of mandatory health insurance, and also very much in support of a single payer universal health insurance program for all Americans. Manheim and Court’s article raised some interesting questions for me, and absolutely reinforced for me that the ideal we should be working toward is government-funded health care for everyone, rather than mandatory (or not) private health insurance for most of us.

It’s popular to compare mandatory health insurance to mandatory auto insurance (I’ve made the comparison myself several times). But you can get around the auto insurance law by just choosing to not own a vehicle. People who walk, bike, or take public transportation are not required to purchase auto insurance. Mandatory health insurance would not have a similar out. And since the health insurance carriers are private companies – most of which are for-profit enterprises complete with shareholders and extremely well-compensated upper management – any law that would require people to buy private health insurance would essentially be akin to taxation without representation.

Can you think of any other situation where the state or federal governments require us to purchase something from a private company in order to live here? Sure there are lots of rules and regulations that we all must follow. We have to drive within the speed limits, obtain permits to built a house, and keep our dogs on leashes. There are lots of rules that we might not like but have to obey anyway if we want to stay on the good side of the law. But I can’t think of anything that I have to buy from a private firm just to be able to live here, with no option to decline the purchase.

The somewhat obvious answer here is government-run universal health care. Although it may be unconstitutional for the government to make us buy a product from a private company, it’s very much within the law to levy a tax in order to provide government-funded services to all Americans. We already have such a system in place to pay for public education, national defense, police, fire-fighters, national parks, roads, and even health care – in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. If we expand the current government-run health care systems to include everyone, the government would be able to constitutionally raise taxes to fund the program. And people would not be forced to purchase health insurance from private companies where they have no representation.

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Comments

  1. Tom Hagan says:

    Exactly. A “mandate” is not the same as a permitting or licensing requirement. If someone fails to purchase insurance, what do you do? Put them in debtors prison? Shoot them?

    For more, see:

    http://whatsnotso.blogs.com/whatsnotso/2008/03/the-hillbar-hea.html

  2. joe dupont says:

    I’d like to put this on a youtube. What obama is trying to do is illegal. He lied about his positionn on this during the primary and he gets a pass.
    can I use this for a quick youtube..
    please run with this idea.
    and where is John McCain.. bought and paid for too.

  3. Diane Saull says:

    Thank you for articulating what I’ve been thinking about this mandatory health insurance…especially the auto comparison…this whole thing is clearly socialism but nobody has had the guts to use the “S” word. I hear “adults” debating on this issue as if there is even something to debate. We’re a democracy…our fundamental right is our freedom of choice…or in this case…our freedom not to choose. Take that away from us and what do you have? Socialism…and it’s scary to think that so many “intelligent” people are refusing to grasp this concept.

  4. joe dupont says:

    As far as I’m concerned this bill is illegal in nature .
    I’d rather die a few years sooner as a free man than live a little bit longer as a slave.
    Let me decide where I spend my extra money not the President.
    Please stop mandatory health insurance!

    I just faxed Rep. Massa of NY and thanked him for his change of heart on this bill.

  5. ANONYMOUS says:

    BOTH THE AUTO INSURANCE INDUSTRY & HEALTH CARE INSURANCE INDUSTRY ARE SCAMS TO STEAL YOUR MONEY: DO NOT PAY IT ! MEANING BOTH BE EXTORTIONS TO THE PUBLIC, TO STEAL YOUR $. DO NOT PAY IT. ONLY COWARDS PAY INSURANCE. I WAS A COWARD IS WHY I PAID THE AUTO INSURANCE, WHEN I HAD A CAR. THIS COUNTRY OF USA IS GOVERNED BY CORRUPT, THAT FORCE THE PUBLIC TO PAY ILLEGAL TAX, THAT THE CORRUPT CALL OR REFER TO AS “INSURANCE”, WHEN IT’S NOT CALLED TAX, IS ALSO A SCAM, TO STEAL YOUR $. DO NOT PAY ANY TAX AND DO NOT PAY ANY INSURANCE & DO NOT PAY ANY LOAN[S. LET YOUR HOUSE GO INTO FORECLOSURE. DO NOT RETURN YOUR CAR TO THE LENDER OF THE CAR LOAN, IF YOU’RE UNABLE TO PAY YOUR CAR LOAN, BECAUSE THAT ALSO IS A SCAM TO STEAL YOUR CAR.

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