The Individual Mandate

ObamaCare may not be dead, but it sure isn’t feeling well since yesterday.  A significant blow was struck against federal overreach when Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down a key facet of the law.

Those of us who oppose the bill have varying reasons.  Some think it will accelerate our rocket ship to financial ruin.  Some think it will soon cause a shortage of doctors.  Some think it will hurt the poor and uninsured more than it helps them.  I think all three.

Aside from the damage the bill would do in these respects, there lingers a deeper and much more troubling question.  Is there or is there not a limit to the power of the Legislature?  The Administration has argued that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to require individuals to purchase health insurance because it “affects interstate commerce.”  As Judge Hudson noted in his opinion, there is no logical limit to this reasoning.  Can you think of anything at all that could not be argued to somehow involve interstate commerce?

For those of you who do support the Affordable Care Act, ask yourself what price you would pay for it.  To my knowledge, this is the first time in our history, Congress has attempted (in the dead of night, by one vote, on Christmas Eve) to require its citizens to purchase a private product.  Can you think of how many other things Congress could require us to purchase in this manner?

For those of you who support the Affordable Care Act and are under 35 or so years old, you have been had.  The whole foundation of the bill rests on making people who don’t need as much health insurance (the young–you) pay more so that people who do need it (generally the old) can get covered.  Are you an individual with the right to decide on your own health care or a barely-recognizable unit in the Great Collective?

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.  We will soon see whether there is even a shred of a pretense on their part that our Constitution limits the powers of our government.  Their failure to reign in the beast would bring us close to an “all bets are off” scenario, and it won’t be pretty.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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